COVID crisis 'not delaying 5G rollout'

COVID-19 is not expected to significantly delay 5G deployments, according to a new report from the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, in partnership with A10 Networks.

The percentage of mobile service providers stating their companies were 'moving rapidly toward commercial deployment' has increased from 26 per cent in a survey announced in early 2019 to 45 per cent in the new survey.

Virtually all respondents - to the online survey of over 100 executives at telecom and cloud service providers - said improved security was a critical network requirement and top concern in the 5G era.

Early 5G networks are being designed in accordance with the approved non-standalone 5G standard, but 30 per cent of respondents said they were already proactively planning to add standalone 5G, and another nine per cent saying their companies will move directly to standalone.

Standalone 5G will require a whole new network core utilising a cloud-native, virtualised, service-based architecture. Many respondents, in fact, say they are making significant progress toward network virtualisation.

“Our latest study indicates that major mobile carriers around the world are on track with their 5G plans, and more expect to begin commercial build-outs in the coming months,” said Dave Murray, director of thought leadership with the BPI Network. “While COVID-19 may result in some short-term delays for operators, the pandemic ultimately demonstrates a global need for higher speed, higher capacity 5G networks and the applications and use case they enable.”

Among key findings of the survey, 71 per cent of respondents expect to begin 5G network build-outs within 18 months, including one third which have already begun or will do so in 2020.

An overwhelming 95 per cent said virtualising network functions was important to their 5G plans, while three quarters said their companies are either well on their way or making good progress towards virtualisation.

Almost all (99 per cent) also view deployment of mobile edge clouds as an important aspect of 5G networks, with 65 per cent saying they expect edge clouds on their 5G networks within 18 months.

“Mobile operators globally need to proactively prepare for the demands of a new virtualised and secure 5G world,” said Gunter Reiss, worldwide vice president of A10 Networks, a provider of secure application services for mobile operators worldwide.

“That means boosting security at key protection points like the mobile edge, deploying a cloud-native infrastructure, consolidating network functions, leveraging DevOps automation tools and moving to an agile and hyperscale service-based architecture as much as possible.”

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