Bridging the Gap Between Advanced 5G Technologies and Deployments

By Taryn Engmark

Assistant Editor

Embedded Computing Design

August 29, 2022

Story

Bridging the Gap Between Advanced 5G Technologies and Deployments

5G provides up to 20Gbit/s peak data rates, 100x faster download speeds and network capacity, and 10x lower latency than 4G networks. But some of the most significant benefits of 5G networks are their abilities to support service-based architectures (SBAs) that tailor resources to specific use cases, in industry and the enterprise.

This requires transitioning from the initial 5G NR networks that resided on top of 4G LTE network cores to 5G Standalone (SA) networks that exist completely on a 5G network core. However, according to global intelligence firm ABI Research, 5G SA hasn’t been widely adopted yet, and it’s not the only 5G technology that isn’t seeing widespread deployment.

5G Advanced is the next stage of 5G, specialized for deployment in the chronically overlooked industry and enterprise sectors. Its features include highly precise 5G positioning, flexible reduced capability NR, Sidelink device-to-device communication, and support for AR, VR, and XR use cases.

Many of these newer 5G capabilities assume a network infrastructure based on cloud-like elasticity, flexibility, and technology supplied by multiple vendors. However, according to a recent survey from Enea, a Sweden-based software company, of 44 mobile network operators, less than half (42%) of respondents are hoping to use multivendor 5G core deployments, while a third said they’d prefer to stick with their incumbent vendors to ensure subscriber data management.

In short, 5G technologies are continuing to advance without waiting for network operators to catch up.

A World Divided

This divide may spell trouble for the future of 5G. With 5G SA technologies remaining under-utilized, the introduction of further technologies, such as 5G Advanced, seems precarious.

ABI Research predicts that 76 million radios, 13 million small cells, and 23 million macro basebands — which together will account for 75% of 5G base stations — will be upgraded to 5G Advanced by 2030. The caveat here is that only about half (14 million) of enterprise small cells will see that 5G Advanced upgrade in the same time frame.

Hence, the world of 5G is divided not just between mobile network operators based on their vendor strategy, but also between 5G’s consumer market and enterprise market deployments.

This divisiveness is indicative of a cycle in the progression of 5G technology, according to ABI Research’s senior research director Dimitris Mavrakis. Adoption of technologies such as 5G Advanced becomes more difficult when its predecessor (5G SA) has still not been fully realized.

“This is a mistake that the industry cannot keep repeating. If it does, 5G will be doomed to failure and the industry will be forced to restart the cycle again with 6G,” Mavrakis said.

Generally, the consensus among operators is an emphasis on practicality. Many 5G technologies are incredibly useful but can be costly and difficult to implement. Despite recognizing the potential benefits, operators remain concerned about cost constraints, interoperability issues, and being able to maintain a single point of contact for support purposes when moving into these new environments.

While advancements in 5G technologies continue to progress and open the doors to new opportunities, practically speaking those doors remain closed until the market matures enough to support them.