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Uncertainty Accelerating 5G Trends: What to Watch

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5G Awareness Blog 1240x600 Final Uncertainty Accelerating 5G Trends: What to Watch

The global pandemic has created uncertainty for all of us but learn how it has also helped accelerate four key 5G trends.

Demand is outpacing supply in the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC’s) first big midband spectrum auction. But 5G’s future prospects aren’t the only winner. Heavy interest and investment also bodes well for recipients of critical connectivity enablers like fixed wireless and private LTE that will also take advantage of the flexible spectrum.

The sustained interest in building to the foundations that will support 5G’s most promising opportunities has also been front and center in Spirent’s customer work over the past six months. Despite a global pandemic wreaking relentless uncertainty, deployment plans persist. Testing initiatives are still expanding.

No one knows for sure what the future holds. Will work from home orders become permanent? Will we finally focus as an industry on closing the rural connectivity gap? Can AR help telemedicine soar to new heights? No matter the question, the bets being placed today are on 5G being the answer.

5G’s most consequential year yet

When our 5G: What to expect in 2020 report published earlier this year, we proclaimed 2020 would be 5G’s biggest year yet. That was just before the COVID-19 virus expanded in Asia and took hold with a vengeance in Europe and the Americas. If we could go back and put a finer point on our original proclamation, we’d say that 2020 may prove to be 5G’s most consequential year yet.

When we entered 2020, 5G deployments were well underway but consumer adoption was falling short of expectations. This drove an expedited pursuit of potentially lucrative enterprise opportunities. Now, the deck is being shuffled yet again as the enterprise suddenly becomes more distributed than ever, with seemingly endless endpoints created by virtual workers blasting past the physical boundaries of the office. Yes, connectivity is being put to unprecedented tests. This trend alone will drive relentless innovation in the near-term. And all this in just half a year. The lesson? Anything can happen now. So when we see investment starting to pour into new spectrum, rollouts continuing at a feverish pace or urgent testing requests, it all points to the same reality: all eyes are on 5G to take us wherever it is we’re headed next.

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Despite a global pandemic wreaking relentless uncertainty, deployment plans persist. Testing initiatives are still expanding.

Four key trends to watch

Spirent explores 5G’s future prospects in the wake of a global pandemic in a recently published addendum to our outlook report. We see four important trends unfolding faster than expected that we believe will have lasting impact:

  1. Work from home trends will drive Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) urgency. Google just told employees they don’t need to report to a physical office until next summer and many others are following suit. What was initially thought to be a temporary workaround is looking more like an eventual permanent way of life. Home networks are helping employees get buy today. But to thrive? 5G-powered FWA will deliver the robustness, security and control that comprise a long-term solution. Rural connectivity will also be a winner as 5G over Non-Terestrial Networks (NTN) (including Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites constellations) gather momentum and begin to realize potential within the next 2-3 years.

  2. Momentum growing for low latency use cases like telemedicine. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky predictions about what the future may someday bring. New use cases are suddenly all around us and 5G is expected to provide the backbone that will drive expansion and adoption. In South Korea, first responders in ICUs are using 360-degree cameras that are connected over 5G networks to stream data in real time.

  3. Supply chains are being diversified. OpenRAN and new 5G core and cloud suppliers are emerging as critical components of a diversified and potentially more cost-effective supply chain. At the same time, US and UK regulators are giving heightened consideration to how they will protect national network infrastructures. This is all driving new approaches to how network vendor relationships are explored, newly-introduced components are secured and services are launched.

  4. Automation is accelerating. Especially considering physical access limitations, the need to automate networks to assure experiences is receiving urgent attention.

We dive into detail on the above key trends and more shaping 5G’s next chapter in our report addendum. Download your copy today for Spirent’s views on where we head next. And keep following this blog as we explore each of these trends more closely this year.

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Stephen Douglas
Stephen Douglas

principal technology strategist

Stephen works for Spirent's strategy organization helping to define technical direction, new innovative solutions, and market leading disruptive technologies which make a real difference. With close to 20 years experience in telecommunications Stephen has been at the cutting edge of next generation technologies and has worked across the industry with multiple service providers, start-ups and Tier 1 OEMs helping them drive innovation and transformation. Stephen is an ardent believer in connected technology and strives to challenge, blur, and break down the silos which prevent innovation and business success.