We’ve heard about the promise of 5G for years – how it
will be faster and more efficient – but it wasn’t until 2019 that we saw the
first, small signs of rollout around the world. While we wait for additional
cities to come online and 5G devices to be introduced, we believe 2020 will be
the kickoff to a more connected future.
CLICK TO TWEET: CommScope's Morgan Kurk believes 2020 will be the year that the pieces are put into place to deliver on the 5G promise.
Consumers will continue to hear about 5G
and the benefits it will offer including gaming and augmented reality, which
will lead the drive for low latency. But gaming, augmented reality and even
video – which is predicted to be 82 percent of all IP traffic by 2020 – are not the killer apps
that will drive the consumer need for new experiences and the need for 5G.
Operators will not wait for the killer app and will be
busy in 2020 rolling out, densifying, and powering the network in a variety of
bands while working on driving the standards and technology.
Operators around the world have designated mid-band
(mostly 3.5GHz) as a primary band for 5G, however the U.S. operators do not
have this option, and thus are using both current lower frequency bands and
mmWave frequencies (above 24 GHz).
Operators need efficiency in terms of cost per bit per
area, which dictates how, where, and what bands they are going to deploy. In
other words, operators will decide if they use high band, then the cost per bit
goes down, but the area decreases so they need to deploy more cells which
drives up cost. When using mid-band or
low band spectrum, which enables them to lower cost as they don’t have to
deploy as many cells to cover the same area, the cost per bit goes up as the
bandwidth of the radios is significantly less.
The key will be an optimization equation driving high frequency in more
dense areas, and lower frequency in less dense areas.
Which bands are owned and deployed by an operator will
dictate the areas of coverage, reach and speed. What we will end up with is ‘coverage kings,’ ‘capacity
kings,’ and “fixed wireless”. Coverage kings will use their spectrum and chosen
technology to cover a large
geographic area; for example Australia, where most of the population is on the
coasts but the interior of the country still needs coverage. Capacity kings
will focus on cities like New York, Paris and London, and other densely
populated areas relying on technologies such as small cells, to deliver speed and low latency services to consumers,
businesses and connected devices. Fixed wireless will focus on delivering the
service with the reach to provide
broadband connectivity to low population density users economically.
More spectrum will become available in various regions
of the world through auctions or allocation with every passing year. In 2020 we will see the launch of shared
spectrum and the potential to prove it can work. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)
in the U.S. will enter full commercial deployment and utilize a spectrum access
system to allocate spectrum. Other regions will watch and see if this
experiment works, and make adjustments to implement in other parts of the
In addition to licensed and shared spectrum, 2020 is
also the year that Wi-Fi 6 goes mainstream.
There is a concerted push to increase available spectrum for Wi-Fi in
the 6GHz band. There continues to be a
drive to utilize all spectrum to meet consumers’ needs, both licensed and
Although Statista predicts the global number of 5G
connections to be 1.1B by 2025, Wi-Fi 6 is an option for businesses and densely
populated areas to offer wireless coverage.
Open standards continue to be a big topic of discussion
and we see 2020 as the beginning of a three-year process that will prove if open
standards will be beneficial for the wireless operator. The O-RAN Alliance is
an organization that has “committed to evolving radio access networks around
the world.” Their vision is to virtualize various network elements, white box
hardware and standardized interfaces throughout the network. Although the
organization is young – founded in 2018 – it already has more than 120 member
companies working toward openness and intelligence. We believe that 2020 will
see agreement on key aspects of O-RAN speeding up 5G network deployments.
Many wireless operators
have started 5G network deployments with small trials of massive MIMO
(multiple-input and multiple-output) technology. As networks are brought online
in 2020, the amount of data required, along with the cost of power, backhaul
and site acquisition, will dictate if and when massive MIMO plays out in
network deployments. If more capacity is needed, 2020 could see an increase in
massive MIMO deployments however, as efficiency goes up with massive MIMO,
complexity and cost also goes up.
TDD (time division duplex) has been the technology used
for Wi-Fi, while FDD (Frequency division duplex) has been used for most of the
cellular world. With the introduction of higher frequency licensed spectrum,
TDD is now going mainstream with 5G.
This will bring new challenges and benefits and a different type of
complexity as it is integrated in with the traditional TDD bands. The additional
of this TDD spectrum however, will enable wireless networks to compete with
out the networks
We see 2020 as a major 5G coverage and capacity build
year. Not only will 5G require touching the macro-sites, but will require
densification of metro cells and beefing up in-buildings systems.
Although it is still early days, data and processing is
starting to move from the core toward the edge to remove bottlenecks. We will see more of this happen as the
As the metro layer of the network becomes more
important, getting power to these locations will be critical from a cost and
time perspective. CommScope has long
talked about PBS – power, backhaul and site acquisition as the critical three
for building a network and this is even truer for 5G.
5G has launched in
places around the world, but it is only in its infancy. Network operators still
have a lot of work to do to make this technology live up to its potential. We
believe that 2020 will be the year that network operators put the pieces into
place to deliver the 5G promise and we will watch as the lines between wireless
and wireline continue to blur.
1. Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast
and Trends, 2017–2022 White Paper