Many operators have accelerated preparations for the arrival of 5G, and are increasingly looking to the enterprise as well as the consumer market as potential customers, according to a survey conducted by Ericsson.
A survey of operators that have publicly announced intentions to deploy 5G shows that 78% are conducting 5G trials, up from just 32% during a similar survey last year. In addition, 28% of the respondents plan to deploy 5G next year (even though IMT 2020 standards won’t be finished till late 2020 and there has been no discussion of the 5G RAN). Operators have further evolved their business strategies for 5G services to extend beyond the consumer market.
“In the 2016 survey, 90% of the respondents pointed to consumers as the main segment in their 5G business planning,” Ericsson head of 5G commercialization Thomas Noren explained.
“This year, it is an even split between three segments and operators have identified business opportunities not only in the consumer segment but also with enterprise users and specialized industries.”
With operators considering the consumer market to be becoming saturated, 5G planning has been more evenly distributed across specialized industry segments (58%), business users (56%), and consumers (52%).
The industry segments considered to have the most potential include media and entertainment, automotive and public transport, with energy and utilities as well as healthcare being considered other attractive potential markets.
The survey also found that a clear majority of operators believe that the IoT will play an important role in the 5G ecosystem.
82% of technical respondents believe multiuser Massive MIMO is an essential feature for 5G. Multiuser Massive MIMO dynamically transmits data as highly focused beams to simultaneously send and receive multiple data signals over the same radio channel, enabling multiple users to use the same time and frequency resources, which, Ericsson points out, is key to many of the performance gains expected in 5G because it increases spectral efficiency for higher capacity and throughput from the same amount of spectrum.
Other features identified as essential to 5G are device-to-device connection (71%), network security (68%), virtualized network functions (68%) and network slicing (68%).
The Ericsson report found that in saturated markets, such as North America, operators envision monetizing 5G connectivity by taking market share from competitors with new features and performance (23%) or better pricing (18%); by migrating current 4G subscribers to 5G and charging more for 5G features (23%); and by expanding to new enterprise/industry markets (18%).