Global 5G Trials And Where Does India Stand

Mobile operators worldwide are in sort of a race to offer next generation services to their customers and this has led them to experiment with various new technologies including 5G, IoT and machine to machine communications among others. While 4G is getting matured across many markets, operators are toying with the next generation technologies and are conducting 5G trials across their networks.

While it has gained momentum in the last six months, a total of 72 network operators across the globe are already testing 5G in 2017, 3 times than 2016, says a recent report from global T&M firm Viavi Solutions.

Of these around 28 operators have already conducted field trials and another 28 operators have announced plans for 5G trials. Even operators like Etisalat and Ooredoo have already launched pre-commercial 5G services in their networks.

As far as India is concerned, country’s largest operator Bharti Airtel is the sole operator that has conducted India’s 5G trial along with Huawei solutions. Other Indian operators including the state-run telco BSNL are also in the middle of their 5G journey.

“Network service providers have been grappling with the evolution to 5G for some time, including how to address technology challenges such as fixed mobile convergence, hybrid cloud, network slicing and increasing virtualization,” said Sameh Yamany, Chief Technology Officer, VIAVI Solutions. “Virtual test, automation, self-optimization and analytics will be essential to dealing with the growing complexity and scale of 5G networks, while managing demand for high data rates, very low latency applications and large-scale IoT services.”

Top Equipment Firms Involved in 5G Trials

Though the 5G new radio (NR) specifications were ratified recently, as many ass 14 network equipment manufacturers have announced their involvement in 5G trials of some operators. Swedish telecom major Ericsson leads the chart with more than 30% of the 5G trials – be it lab trials or field trials.

Some of the large operators who have gone ahead with Ericsson include MTS, Batelco, Vodafone, Singtel, Verizon, KDDI, NTT Docomo, LG Uplus, America Movil, SK Telekom, China Mobile and US Cellular.

Ericsson is followed by Chinese behemoth Huawei with 22% of all 5G trials across operators. Indian operator Bharti Airtel is using Huawei solutions for its 5G trials. Nokia is closing gap with Huawei with 21% market share in all the 5G tests.

ZTE, Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel are stacked up next with market share of 7%, 6%, 5% and 4% respectively, says the Viavi study, in terms of involvement in any kind of 5G testing.

What Are The Outcomes Of These 5G Trials

To date, these trials have been conducted across a broad range of bandwidths, ranging from sub-3 GHz to 86 GHz. Of the operators disclosing their test spectrum, the most commonly trialed wavelength is 28 GHz, with 21 operators using it, followed by 15 GHz.

Some of the biggest operators are conducting trials with 28 GHz wavelength. These include KDDI, Orange, Vodafone Group, T-Mobile, LG U+ and US Cellular.

Reports from ongoing 5G trials indicate that a handful of operators are reaching blazing fast data speeds. In fact, four operators have reported reaching a speed of 70 Gbps — Etisalat, Proximus, Telenor and Zain. The average speed, however, is much lower, with six operators claiming speeds in excess of 35 Gbps, and another six reporting a speed of 10 Gbps.

India’s Airtel is testing its 5G readiness with 26 GHz spectrum.

“Expectations for 5G are sky-high, offering mobile operators new opportunities for revenue,” explains Stéphane Téral, Executive Director of Research and Analysis, Mobile Infrastructure and Carrier Economics, IHS Markit. “Yet the path to full 5G adoption is complicated and still evolving. Operators and infrastructure vendors across the globe are moving at varying speeds when it comes to testing and deployment — they need to act now to address technology challenges.”

In terms of commercial availability of 5G services, many operators have announced they would roll out in 2019. However, a recent Nokia MBIT study says it would get delayed by a year in India.

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