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5G Adoption Ramps Up Worldwide

Sept. 15, 2021
What's the state of 5G as we enter the second half of 2021? According to one market report, adoption of 5G technology and systems, from 5G SA to XaaS, has begun to escalate.

Periodically, I like to step back a little and look at how 5G adoption is progressing among service providers. A mid-year reassessment of the market by Spirent Communications provides one relevant data point. Spirent is a purveyor of automated test and assurance products and services, which brings a measure of objectivity to its data.

According to this update on the first half of 2021, 5G trends are accelerating rapidly. There’s a significant surge in the number of 5G standalone (SA) core network evaluations, testing, and launches. And, more specifically, Spirent found great demand for managed solutions and Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) offerings. Test automation, the company maintains, is a key enabling technology that smooths out the complexity of testing in multi-vendor environments.

Based on its work with service providers, network-equipment manufacturers, governments, and device makers, Spirent’s update finds 5G adoption booming across both commercial and government segments and in all global regions. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Geographic trends: All major regions (North America, Europe, and Asia) are aggressively pursuing 5G SA core testing and deployments. North America is driving the demand for customer experience and service assurance solutions. Asia Pacific continues its focus on, and investment in, transport infrastructure, toward the goal of supporting industrial use cases. Europe is starting to accelerate activities after COVID and high-risk vendor delays.
  • 5G standalone: New services and differentiation drive 5G SA. 5G SA core evaluation, testing, and launch continue to grow significantly across all geographic regions. Large service providers look to use multiple vendors while smaller telcos gravitate to one key partner. 
  • 5G telco edge cloud: Partnerships, early trials, and deployments between hyperscalers and service providers are expanding. Providers are still working to benchmark edge performance and integrate assurance for consistent, deterministic latency. Expect latency to become a key battleground for the hearts and minds of industry and enterprises.
  • Open RAN: There are currently 45 ongoing Open RAN trials and early deployments across 27 countries (source: TeckNexus). Leading 5G service providers will target larger-scale Open RAN non-dense urban rollouts during 2022. Early deployments will focus on rural, indoor, and private coverage. Interoperability, performance, robustness, and system integrator overheads require that service providers continue to test and validate every deployment phase.
  • 6G vision: The industry is beginning to coalesce around some key themes, including terahertz frequencies, use of intelligent reconfigurable surfaces and metamaterials, open networking, and network of networks (terrestrial cellular, NTN, subsea, and Wi-Fi convergence).

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