Published   Wireless Watch

Will 5G really be so different after all?

5G Deployment Trends to 2025

“While 84% of MNOs aim to deploy a 5G vRAN, only 24% believe they will do that in the first two years.” 

There are mounting tensions in the 5G world – on the onehand vendors are emphasizing new business models, and trying to enable them, and on the other, operator spending plans, show they are more worried about sustaining the growth curve on mobile broadband.

This mismatch will show up in planned Capex expenditure and the order in which operators expect to deploy different aspects of 5G. Early 5G will be all about consumer mobile broadband delivering high speed to the handset, and ignoring new business models.

RAN Research has forecast 5G deployment trends to 2025 but at the simplest level, has forecast, capex spend on base stations – segmenting the spend between Macro cells and small cells, and the timing on that spend. The report anticipates a small capex peak in the near future, but then business as usual.

Densification plans are postponed. Previous spending surveys one year ago and two years ago, showed a very different set of priorities among MNOs – and now they are putting densification on the back burner, and instead focusing on mobile broadband. Surprisingly two-thirds of 5G sites deployed in the first two years of commercial roll-out will be macro.

MNOs are also putting back their plans for virtualization in the RAN, and because fully commercial-grade platforms and open interfaces have not matured as quickly as expected.

This conservatism will affect equipment purchases, with a greater emphasis on macrocells, complemented by 4G small cells, and a postponed investment, for many, in 5G densification.

Showing you the shape of MNO spending for the next 7 years, the report answers questions like:
1. What will be the early priorities in 5G spending?
2. Which new business cases will be first to have investment?
3. In which years will Capex spending by at its highest in 5G?

This report is 43 pages long, has 20 graphs and tables, and gives a blueprint for MNO purchasing by region, technology, and network element. It contains explanatory notes and commentary to accompany the Excel spreadsheet ‘5G deployment trends 2018-2025’. That contains further data breakdowns including regional patterns. The surveys and forecasts on which the outputs are based were conducted in July to September 2018. 

This report will: 
• Show which order major MNOs will embrace features in 5G.
• Give vendors the key to planning their budgets for the next 7 years.
• Align vendor product roadmaps with operator plans
• Plan Capex for 5G
• Give you a spreadsheet you can drop directly into  next year’s budgets

Companies mentioned in this report:

NTT Docomo, Rakuten, Vodafone, Swisscom, Three UK, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Telecom Italia, Wind Tre, Iliad Italia, Telia Finland, Elisa, DNA, Telecom Infra Project, ORAN Alliance.

For more information contact:

Chloe Spring (Marketing Manager): [email protected]

Office Phone: +44 (0)1179 257019

Download Executive Summary:

Download a copy of the executive summary

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Table of Contents 2

Table of Figures 3

Introduction 6

So will 5G really be different? 9

Densification is postponed: 9

Business drivers are changing too: 11

How will these shifts affect capex?: 13

Savings may be delayed, but capex will be spread more evenly over a decade: 17

The shape of the 5G RAN – just an extension of 4G? 19

Will the 5G networks enable new use cases and industries? 27

Caution of first phase of 5G is partly down to spectrum policy 30

Business Regulators are supporting traditional models: 31

Conclusion 36

Appendix: Methodology 39

The Rethink RAN Research process summarized 40

RAN Research: Forecasting disruption in wireless 41

RAN Research main contributors 42

Rethink Leadership 42

About Rethink Technology Research: 43

Figure 1. pg.9 Operator aspirations, set out in 2016 5G survey, compared with deployment expectations, based on 2018 5G survey (Q3 2018 responses 72. Respondent overlap 85%)

Figure 2. pg.11 2018 survey – operators’ top 3 business case drivers to deploy 5G in the first 4 years of their commercial roll-out (respondents first named all their drivers. They were then asked to select their top 3, from the 10 drivers most cited. Graph sums to 300)

Figure 3. pg.12 2016 survey – operators’ top 3 business case drivers to deploy 5G in the first 4 years of their commercial roll-out (respondents first named all their drivers. They were then asked to select their top 3, from the 10 drivers most commonly cited).

Figure 4. pg.14 Forecast global MNO capex spending on RAN, core and virtualization/SDN, and the subset assigned to 5G, 2018 to 2025

Figure 5. pg.14 MNO capex spending 2008 to 2025, showing the 4G spike in 2012 to 2016

Figure 6. pg.17 Distribution of first 10 years of network capex investment by region in 4G (above) and 5G (below)

Figure 7. pg.20 Deployments and upgrades of macro and micro base stations by radio technology 2017 to 2025

Figure 8. pg.20 Total deployments of 5G and 4G macro and micro base stations 2017 to 2025

Figure 9. pg.21 Deployments and upgrades of 5G base stations, by radio technology 2018 to 2025

Figure 10. pg.22 New deployments and upgrades of cell sites, by number of MIMO antenna elements

Figure 11. pg.22 Percentage breakdown of total deployed 5G base station capacity in various stages of commercial roll-out (consensus view of 72 MNOs

Figure 12. pg.23 Regional breakdown of deployment of new or upgraded base stations, including macro and mini-macro

Figure 13. pg.24 New deployments and upgrades of small cells (indoor and outdoor) by radio technology

Figure 14. pg.25 New deployments of 5G and multimode small cells, indoor and outdoor, 2019 to 2025

Figure 15. pg.26 New deployments and upgrades of small cells, by indoor/outdoor location, and by radio technology

Figure 28 Percentage of MNOs placing each use case in their top 4 priorities, for years 1-3 of a commercial 5G roll-out

Figure 17. pg.29 Percentage of MNOs placing each use case in their top 4 priorities, for years 1-3 of a commercial 5G roll-out

Figure 18. pg.34 New deployments of 5G NR in macro and micro cells by spectrum band

Figure 19. pg.35 New deployments of 5G NR in small cells by spectrum band

Figure 20. pg.37 Expectations of implementing technology based on the efforts of major open mobile networking initiatives (multiple responses allowed, 78 respondents)