5G Expo: It’s time for the Global Rollout

By: James Bourne

4, March, 2020


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The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in various fields, the establishment of smart cities and the zeal surrounding autonomous vehicle technology has set the stage for 5G deployment. Countries have been evaluating, at full throttle, the ways to accelerate 5G deployment.

By 2025, GSMA expects South Korea, the US, Japan, China to be the top four nations adopting 5G technology. . Leading the rally were the US and South Korea, deploying 5G in Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), Enterprise and Mobile in 2018 and 2019. The UK, Spain, Germany and China have followed.

Most of the nations have deployed 5G in the mid-band frequency spectrum. Network sharing has been leveraged to facilitate speedier rollout. The effort has been supported by favourable government policies. For instance, the US government has formed a USD $20.4bn Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to boost the accessibility of high-speed broadband in rural areas and the UK government has created a fund to facilitate network sharing in rural areas.

The combined efforts of market players, supported by favourable government policies, has seen 5G deployment accelerate in various countries. Here’s a quick overview of where nations are placed in this race.

The Early Movers

As already mentioned, the US and South Korea were the first to roll out 5G networks. SK Telecom, KT Corporation and LG Uplus are the main market players in South Korea while Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are the major firms in the US. In South Korea, the key players have rolled out 5G in the major cities and metropolitan areas. The firms had planned to expand coverage to 90% of the population by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, the US market players aim to expand coverage in rural areas and cover at least 30 states.

Joining the Race

China, the UK and Germany jumped on the bandwagon in 2019. China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom activated their 5G networks in less than five months after obtaining their licences, covering 50 cities. They have chosen passive network sharing to accelerate rollout. These Mobile Network Operators (MNO) are expected to spend more than USD $150m on their networks. The GSMA expects 36% of mobile users in the country to use 5G by 2025.

In the UK, EE, Vodafone UK, Three UK, and O2 UK have deployed their 5G networks using equipment from Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei. The government has offered grants and formed funds to support the deployment, targeting widespread 5G coverage by 2027.

In Germany, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom rolled out their 5G networks in 25 cities. The two MNOs and Telefónica Deutschland also plan to enter into a network sharing agreement for speedy deployment. Deutsche Telekom intends to cover 16 state capital cities in 2020. Vodafone expects its 5G network to reach 10mn users by the end of 2020.

Other European nations have also begun deployment. Orange and Vodafone have signed active network sharing agreements in Spain. In Switzerland, Sunrise and Salt Mobile have purchased spectrum for 5G deployment. In Italy, Vodafone has rolled out 5G in five cities and plans to extend the network to 120 cities by 2021. The European Union has set the 5G for Europe Action Plan and allocated EUR 700mn for 5G-related research, development and innovation. Additionally, nine member states, namely Austria, France, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK, have published their individual action plans for 5G deployment.

In Qatar and Kuwait, Ooredoo has been working on 5G deployment while Etisalat UAE has been working on it in the UAE. Meanwhile, Singaporean MNOs, like Singtel, StarHub, and M1, have been rolling out standalone networks. Singapore believes that a robust standalone 5G network will provide the necessary support for AI, VR, IoT, Industry 4.0 and machine learning. Many countries in South America have also launched 5G networks.

On the Heels

From 2020 onwards, many nations will begin their 5G rollouts. Malaysia, Thailand, , Croatia, Sweden,Czech Republic, and many countries in Africa  will launch their advanced networks soon. In India, the 5G rollout is expected to start in 2020, with Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and BSNL gearing up for it. Russia has also planned to launch 5G but it will have to set up the required infrastructure first.

Even as countries worldwide have recognised the need for a super-fast network to support new technologies, deployment may be delayed. The coronavirus outbreak is expected to impact rollout in some countries. Meanwhile, some other countries have raised privacy concerns over network equipment providers. Attend the 5G Conference and Expo 2020 in Olympia, London to understand what 5G will enable in the future. View the event details and register.