The Global Status of 5G Solutions and 5G Deployments

In March, RCR Wireless News issued an in-depth overview of the state of 5G deployments worldwide entitled What’s the Status of 5G Globally? The report covered major developments in the 5G ecosystem, including adoption rates, impediments to 5G rollouts, device availability, statics on specific regions, and more. A key takeaway is that everything surrounding adoption — from successful 5G deployments to the rate of service rollouts and scale — depends on the specific policies of a given country and the technologies utilized by their mobile service providers.

Such an environment makes it difficult to provide a true, apples-to-apples comparison of 5G solutions on a global scale. Regardless, it was noted that, around the world, 5G deployments are primarily driven by the need for additional digital capacity and/or the need to drive down costs via network virtualization.

To get started, let’s look at some big-picture global subscription trends:

Mobile subscriptions by Technology (billion)

The latest Ericsson Mobility Report claims there will be 13M mobile subscribers by the end of 2020 vs. a projected 2.6B by 2025. As of this writing, 5G mobile networks have been deployed across 378 cities in 34 countries.


Key Issues Impacting 5G Deployments: Policies and Spectrum

Government guidelines and regulations regarding infrastructure policies, the allocation of 5G spectrum licenses, and zoning — on both local and national levels — shape the environment in which mobile service providers have to operate. The successful build-out of infrastructure (e.g., cell installations/towers) depends heavily on how supportive that environment is in terms of the regulatory landscape. Lengthy right-of-way hearings, zoning approval cycles and exorbitant application fees can severely delay the rollout of necessary infrastructure. And the lack of uniformity among federal, state, and local regulations only compounds the complexity confronting prospective 5G network build-outs.

While the regulatory environment has a major impact on the growth of 5G, the availability of spectrum is the key factor throttling the speed of 5G rollouts across various countries. Some nations are aggressively opening the frequency spectrum for 5G, while others take a more circumspect approach. Additionally, 5G rollouts are more complex than previous generations of wireless communications technologies because the 5G frequency spectrum is in fact divided into three distinct deployments: high-band (millimeter waves), mid-band, and low-band.

Low-band uses a similar frequency range as 4G and offers a similar capacity, while millimeter wave is the fastest with frequencies ranging from 24 GHz to 72 GHz. With frequencies between 2.4 GHz and 4.2 GHz, mid-band is the most widely deployed (30+ networks worldwide — Sprint and China Mobile use 2.5 GHz).

Mid-band networks have good reach and coverage can be extended by upgrading existing towers, making them more cost-effective. As a rule of thumb, low-band provides the best coverage and high-band is the fastest. Mid-band provides the best of both worlds: better coverage than millimeter waves and adequate spectrum availability to reach most of the speed promised by 5G. For this reason, mid-band is considered the ideal deployment.

5G Deployments — Regional Highlights

The RCR Wireless News report covers 5G solutions across several regions worldwide, with a major emphasis on comparing the world’s 5G technology leaders — the U.S. (North America) and China.
North America and China:

South Korea:

Australia, India, and South Africa:

What about Europe?

While RCR Wireless News didn’t focus on the EU, per se, some observations can be made in light of recent developments:



5G users already experience higher download speeds
In the survey detailed above, the U.S. had the fastest download speeds at 1.86Gbps followed by Switzerland with 1.14Gbps. Surprisingly, in Australia, users experienced 4G speeds that were faster than 5G.


5G Security, Device, and Infrastructure Developments

Large-scale adoption of 5G can’t happen without the availability of compatible equipment (smartphones, routers, customer premises equipment, and fixed wireless terminals). Fortunately, output of the “right stuff” is picking up rapidly. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, compatible handset device volumes are forecast to hit 160M units as China continues its expansion of 5G coverage. By 2021, it’s projected that all Chinese manufactured handsets will support 5G. Even India, without any functioning 5G networks, has 5G phones for sale — after all, they work just fine on a 4G network. Industry analysts assert that, before long, every modem on the market will support 5G. Other highlights in this area include:

Read the Report: What’s the Status of 5G Globally?

As 5G gains greater momentum, it’s proving to be a more impactful technology than previous cellular generations — a technology that has the potential to change the way we approach everyday life in many ways. Moving forward, however, we can expect to see 4G and 5G networks co-exist for years to come. Regardless, we are seeing global 5G deployments happen at a much faster rate that previous generations.

For instance: The first year of the 4G rollout saw the emergence of just four mobile service providers worldwide, while 5G, in its first year, brought 24 networks online in the US alone. The build-out for 5G is simply on a much faster pace. Today, approximately 50 mobile service providers have made available functioning commercial 5G networks worldwide. Expect many more in the coming years.

Download the report

Terry Young
May 19, 2020

About Terry Young

Terry Young is Director of 5G Marketing at A10 Networks. She is responsible for developing programs and marketing material that describe business value of A10 solutions for mobile network operators and other service providers. Prior to A10 Networks, Terry has 20 years experience in the telecommunications industry, including AT&T (mobile and fixed businesses), where she developed market strategy recommendations for new business initiatives for AT&T. As a principal analyst for a syndicated market research company early in the 3G technology introduction, her 3G/4G market analysis and forecasts were published by the UMTS Forum. She also previously held positions with several start-up mobile infrastructure and software vendors, including Infoblox and Palo Alto Networks. Terry has an MBA from Arizona State University and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. READ MORE