Data Driven Futures
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Japan and South Korea lead race for 5G readiness

Written by Hannah McGrath

Japan and South Korea are leading the race to develop superfast 5G networks ready to launch in 2019, with Western Europe lagging far behind, according to new research.

A study conducted by Juniper Research forecast that of 1.05 million 5G active connections set to be in use by the end of 2019, 48.5 per cent will be in the Far East and China, 36.8 per cent in North America, with Western Europe accounting for 14.7 per cent of 5G-ready networks.

Juniper anticipates that of those connections active next year, 90 per cent will be consumer connections used to connect mobile devices to broadband internet services.

Fifth generation connectivityis set to offer mobile download speeds between ten to 20 times faster than current 4G networks. It is hoped that networks will be able to offer wider coverage, faster upload speeds and more stable connections, potentially reaching speeds of 1 gigabits per second, compared to 300 megabytes per second offered currently by top-end 4G networks.

Industry figures predict that 5G could see mobile download speeds improve to the extent that users of 5G-enabled devices will be able to download a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds - a task that would take nearly 10 minutes with current 4G capability.

Juniper analysed over 50 leading global operators, based on criteria including the results of 5G testing and trials, maturity of partnerships in the 5G ecosystem, and levels of technological innovation, with systems ready to make use of the high-frequency networks.

The top five network operators gearing up to launch 5G as early as 2019 were NTT DOCOMO (Japan), SK Telecom (South Korea), LG U+ (South Korea) KT Telecom (South Korea) and SoftBank (Japan).

The study found that total connections to 5G are likely to scale rapidly by 2025, with 1.5 billion connections supporting a range of next generation Internet of Things technologies, including driverless cars, smart cities and connected devices.

The study projected that by 2025, the percentage of mobile data traffic carried over 5G networks is likely to be split across five sectors, led by automotives (68 per cent), smart cities (30 per cent), augmented reality and virtual reality (two per cent). Smart homes and digital health wearables are likely to take longer to come online, accounting for zero per cent of total 5G traffic by 2025.

The research predicted that 5G broadband will be amongst the first services to launch over 5G, with its suitability as a last mile solution driving adoption to over 220 million connections by 2025.

Sam Barker, who authored the research for Juniper, said the challenge for 5G operators will be demonstrating that the higher speeds and connectivity offer tangible benefits to corporates and consumers over existing fibre-based solutions that operate on 4G.

“Operators must carefully consider pricing strategies for 5G broadband. Pricing must address both the anticipated large traffic generated, whilst remaining price competitive against incumbent broadband suppliers”, he added.

The UK rollout of 5G enabled networks is not set to begin until 2020, meaning consumers in urban areas may have to wait until 2022 or later to see widespread coverage, with non-metropolitan areas waiting longer still.

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has initiated auctions of 40MHz of spectrum space available to networks to help cope with anticipated demand.

Mobile operator O2 announced plans earlier this year for a 5G test bed in the O2 arena in North Greenwich, with visitors to the centre able to trial the technology by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, EE claims to have carried out the UK’s first successful end-to-end 5G trial in its labs, achieving reported download speeds of 2.8 GBps.