TIA Survey Reveals Deployment Hurdles for Operators Before Commercial 5G in 2020
A recent survey report for the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) from Tolaga Research, and sponsored by InterDigital, has identified a number of deployment hurdles that must be overcome before 5G is fully commercialised in 2020 and beyond.
In line with common industry assumptions, TIA’s survey reveals that 33% of operator respondents expect they will offer commercial 5G services by 2020, but that a lack of diversity in 5G network densification, disparate data offload strategies and uncertainties around backhaul technology must be overcome before 5G can become a reality.
The TIA survey has revealed that a lack of partner diversity is likely to challenge 5G network densification efforts. Small cell sites are a key requirement for the mainstream rollout of 5G, which means operators need to ensure they have the right partnerships in place to address site acquisition challenges for small cells.
The survey revealed that most operators planned to partner with building owners (75%), electrical utilities (64 %) and public lighting companies (61%) for their network densification efforts. Without broader partnership strategies, operators in many markets will struggle with their 5G network densification objectives, and it is therefore crucial for operators to broaden their range of partnerships to enable the small cell densification demanded by 5G.
The survey also revealed that operators have diverse data offload strategies for 5G, looking towards both licensed and unlicensed spectrum in order to meet bandwidth requirements for 5G. However, data offload strategies differ depending on market conditions, competitive landscapes and the legacy systems that they operate.
While just over half of respondents (55%) plan to deploy Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and prefer the notion of operating LTE in unlicensed spectrum, the majority, at 79%, plan to use plain Wi-Fi. 41% favored both LTE Wi-Fi integration as well as more advanced LTE Wi-Fi aggregation (LWA) technology, while just 4% are interested in deploying MulteFire where they do not have access to licensed spectrum or as an alternative technology for small cell partnerships.
As 5G requires high capacity backhaul to deliver its intended peak data rates, it is unsurprising that every operator identified fiber as an important backhaul and transport technology for 5G. However, fiber is costly to implement and is not necessarily economical for many deployment scenarios. But point-to-point millimeter wave technology was also identified as important by 61% of operators – higher than all other technologies identified except fiber.
Millimeter wave backhaul technologies have traditionally been challenged by operational complexities, but advancements in antenna technologies and signal processing are helping address its technical challenges.
At Mobile World Congress this year, InterDigital demonstrated Crosshaul technology with its EdgeLinkÔ 60GHz Platform, integrating fronthaul and backhaul traffic over a common packet-based transport network, to provide a unified control plane and user plane for the diverse set of 5G traffic requirements. The EdgeLinkÔ 60GHz Platform is a millimeter wave transport solution that delivers multi-gigabit per second throughput with low-latency and high-availability.
“There is a clear industry consensus that we will see commercial deployments of 5G by 2020, which means there are increasing pressures for technology players to showcase market thought leadership and bring 5G to life sooner rather than later.
However, we shouldn’t underestimate the significant deployment challenges ahead; areas like network densification, data offload and backhaul are all key to make 5G a reality, and operators need to ensure they have a strategy in place for the mainstream rollout of 5G,” said Dr. Robert DiFazio, vice president, InterDigital Labs.
“This research demonstrates the efforts operators are putting into making 5G a reality. However, while significant strides are being made, there is still some way to go to ensure operators have the capabilities to handle and offer 5G services.”
Additional insights from the survey also reveal:
- Over a quarter (26%) of operators are planning to trial 5G over the next 24 months. This is especially evident in markets such as China, Japan, Australia and the United States.
- Almost half of respondents expect to have made 5G investments as part of their capital expenditure budgets by the end of 2020.
- More than two thirds of respondents are in favor of trialing radio rather than core network technology. For the operators trialing core network, efforts are being focused around deploying NFV and SDN functionality – precursors of 5G.
- Fiber was ranked as the most important backhaul and transport technology for 5G, followed by millimeter wave.
- Security concerns around 5G are on the rise. Almost all respondents (90%) believe that security is more challenging for autonomous vehicles; 66.7% believe security will be a challenge for ultra-reliable and low latency services; and 63.3% believe security will be difficult for massive machine type communications.
- There is optimism around network slicing. 70% of operators believe it is important for network efficiencies; 73.4% believe it is important for enhanced service quality; and 83.4% believe it’s important for revenue opportunities.
InterDigital develops wireless technologies for mobile devices, networks, and services, and is a key contributor to global wireless standards. It designs and develops a wide range of innovations, and has been involved in the development of 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G.
It is playing a key role in a number of key 5G projects including the EU 5G-Crosshaul project. 5G Crosshaul is a next generation integration project involving players such as Nokia, Ericsson, Orange and Telefonica, and will bring a coordinated approach to the transport technologies and protocols needed for 5G deployments.
The full TIA White Paper, 5G Operator Survey, is available to download: Click here
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