5G Americas conducted its 5G Americas Analyst Forum in Dallas, Texas on September 26-27. Every year, 5G Americas hosts an Analyst Forum with around 70 representatives from high-profile operators and vendors to talk with more than 70 industry analysts about the state of wireless communications in North America and Latin America. This year’s event proved a compelling success as 5G networks are now a commercial reality and the mobile ecosystem is motivated to power 5G commercial breakthroughs throughout the Americas and worldwide in 2020 and beyond.
5G Americas mission is advocating for and facilitating the advancement of 5G and the transformation of LTE networks. As new spectrum, technologies, radios and network architectures are being built on top of hard-won advances from 4G LTE, 5G commercial deployments mark a turning point for global industries and societies. 5G’s transformations in advanced antennas, core enhancements, RAN, security and transport architectures blended with enabling technologies like Edge computing, Cloud and AI are unleashing new opportunities – like massive IoT, V2X (Vehicle-to-everything), robotics, and vertical markets powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
5G Americas Makes the Case that 5G is the Real Transformational Deal
Analyst Take: T-Mobile’s CTO & EVP, Neville Ray, delivered the Keynote to kick-off the event. He made the compelling case that 5G is not only commercial ready and growing rapidly in markets like South Korea, it is also ready to deliver prime time services and innovative uses cases in 2020 and beyond, especially including the Americas. Key takeaways included:
- Initial 5G focused on using TDD bands (mmWave and mid-band) to launch Mobile Broadband (MBB) services.
- Devices supporting FDD bands are expected by the end of 2019, although with limitations in supported bands.
- Standalone architecture is expected in H1 2020 in order to maximize 5G footprint and pave the way to new services.
- 3GPP Release 16 is expected in 2021, expanding the scope of 5G beyond initial enhanced MBB (eMBB) deployments and ushering in new capabilities such as URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication) enhancements, NR-U (New Radio – Unlicensed Spectrum), Industrial IoT (IIoT), and V2x augmentation.
Today South Korea and China are driving the first set of 5G services that are available on a wide-scale footprint basis. For instance, South Korea surpassed the 3 million 5G subscriber mark on 9 September, with coverage expected to reach 93 per cent of the population by the end of the year. In China, 5G services are ready to launch in 50 major cities on October 1, 2019 with ~100,000 5G sites expected by the end of 2019. On a worldwide basis, 35 operators in 20 countries have launched 5G and 33 other countries have already distributed 5G spectrum, including 5G services launched across the Americas consisting of four in the United States and one in Uruguay. These nascent 5G figures align with the June 2019 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, which forecasts 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions – up from 1.5 billion forecasted in the November 2018 edition – an increase of almost 27 percent – further indicating massive upside for 5G.
Operators Panel Confirms Customers Will be Awash in 5G by 2020
Following the Keynote, the Operators Panel explored the new changes in 5G’s ecosystem, as well as discussed how these new technologies, processes, architectures, and partnerships are also re-shaping the mobile industry’s own digital transformation. The panel included:
- Paul Greendyk, VP Mobile Core & Network Services, AT&T
- Karri Kuoppamaki, VP Radio Technology/Strategy, T-Mobile
- Brian O’Shaughnessy, Vice President of Wireless and 5G Technology, Shaw Communications
- Ron Marquardt, VP Technology, Sprint
- Chris Pearson, President, 5G Americas
AT&T’s Greendyk captured the audience’s attention when he made the assurance that the U.S. will be bathing in 5G by H2 2020. Why? For starters, 5G smartphones and other devices will be readily available, broadening mainstream access to 5G services. In addition, AT&T does not need to buy additional real estate to meet their 5G deployment objectives. By using capabilities like software-defined networks, virtualization, smart analytics/automation, and hybrid multi-cloud platforms, AT&T’s existing data center and central office assets are ready to drive their 5G builds. Moreover, AT&T is already partnered with major public cloud providers IBM and Microsoft Azure to meet its 5G business objectives, expanding its partnership with IBM to support each other in cloud and software-defined networking and collaborating with Microsoft in which the two companies will work together on 5G while AT&T moves its workloads to Microsoft Azure. Through these strategic cloud alliances, AT&T further streamlines its internal resource requirements to deliver 5G nationwide next year.
Sprint’s Marquardt confirmed that Sprint’s initial 5G build aimed at some of the largest cities in the country (i.e. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, DC) will deliver peak speeds with threefold to tenfold increases over 4G/LTE. This provides the framework to deliver 5G use case innovations and incentive for consumers and enterprises to rapidly adopt 5G.
The upshot from the operator panel is that despite the early inroads in China (and South Korea), operators are off to a good start in the U.S. with all nationwide operators having launched 5G (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon) with some operators expecting to reach nationwide 5G in 2020 (AT&T). However delays in U.S. spectrum allocation combined with complex siting landscape (i.e., local siting requirements are onerous in some places) are barriers that could still hamper 5G builds in the U.S.
The stakes are high as 5G-related investments in the U.S. is projected to total $1.2 trillion by 2035, with the 5G value chain alone powering $3.5 trillion in economic output. As a result, U.S. GDP could by bolstered by $500 billion annually and create 3 million new jobs. As such, there are trillions (and billions) of reasons for operators to make 5G work on a mass scale by next year.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.