Juniper Research: Japan & South Korea lead in 5G; NTT Docomo most promising 5G operator

Mobile carriers in Japan and South Korea are way ahead of wireless telcos in US and China in near future “5G deployments, according a new study from Juniper Research.  In its new report, 5G Market Strategies: Consumer & Enterprise Opportunities & Forecasts 2018-2025, the research firm ranked NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, LG U+, KTand SoftBank as the world’s top five “most promising 5G network operators.”

Comment: What’s so interesting about Juniper’s ranking is that there is no standard for 5G radio access network/radio interface technologies and there won’t be till the end of 2020 when IMT 2020 will be completed.

Japan’s NTT Docomo topped the list as No. 1, overtaking the top spot from SKT, which was the leader in the same study last year.  SKT slipped into second place in 2018.

Following the top 5 players are AT&T and China Mobile, which were in the top five spots last year.

The research firm said it assessed over 50 global operators for the study and evaluated them based on results of 5G testing and trials, the extent and range of partnerships in the ecosystem and the level of technology innovation.

Japan, South Korea will account for 43% of 5G connections in 2019:

Japan and South Korea have established themselves as clear leaders in the development of 5G, says Juniper Research.  In a white paper, Operators Need to Secure 5G ROI ~ Here’s How, accompanying the study, the research firm predicts that 43% of global 5G connections in 2019 will be in Japan and South Korea.

Juniper Research also forecasts that first commercial 5G network launches are expected in 2019 and that the first networks with 5G services will be in the Far East, China and North America. These regions are expected to account for all of the predicted 1.05 million 5G active connections by the end of 2019.

However, the research cautioned that operators faced significant challenges both to deploy and most effectively configure 5G networks. It claimed that the need to deploy dense small cell networks, operators would need far greater access to sites to upgrade and share equipment. Furthermore, it urged operators to invest in virtualized networks to enable both more efficient traffic management and improve security in the network perimeter.

“Over the past 2 years, operators and network vendors have been actively trialing their 5G solutions, including antennas, core networks and beam forming. Since 3GPP standards have been finalized for 5G NRs (3GPP spec New Radios) many of these trials have focused on interoperability between devices and 5G networks,” the research firm said.

“As a result, leading operators are now aiming for a launch date in 2019. Indeed, many operators have begun rolling out antennas and backhaul infrastructure to provide a 5G service. Initial 5G coverage will be in urban areas.”

220M 5G broadband connections forecast by 2025:

The research firm also forecasts that 5G based fixed wireless broadband (there is no such thing as it’s not even a use case for IMT2020!) will be among the first services to launch over 5G (e.g. Verizon’s proprietary spec). Its suitability as a last mile solution will drive adoption to over 220 million connections by 2025.   However, the challenge for operators will be to demonstrate tangible benefits, to enterprises and consumers, over existing fiber-based solutions, warns Juniper Research author Sam Baker.

“Operators must carefully consider pricing strategies for 5G broadband,” Baker said.  “Pricing must address both the anticipated large traffic generated, whilst remaining price competitive against incumbent broadband suppliers.”
He also cautions that operators faced significant challenges both to deploy and most effectively configure 5G networks.

“With the need to deploy dense small cell networks, operators would need far greater access to sites to upgrade and share equipment.  Furthermore, we would urge operators to invest in virtualized networks to enable both more efficient traffic management and improve security in the network perimeter.”

Current Market Status:

5G, the next iteration of wireless cellular technologies, is currently reaching its final stages of development and commercialization by MNOs and industry stakeholders. Previous iterations of technologies (3G and 4G) were developed with a consumer-oriented focus. However, 5G will have further-reaching impacts, enabling a large number of use cases in IoT (Internet of Things) sectors such as healthcare, automotive industries, smart cities and mobile broadband. 5G networks will deliver high-bandwidth and low latency that support services such as UHD (Ultra High Definition) video streaming.

Juniper Research anticipates that the first commercial network launches will occur in 2019; the first networks to provide 5G services will be located in Far East & China and North America. Meanwhile, network operators in Europe have mostly adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, closely following the progress of operators in these 2 regions.

Over the past 2 years, operators and network vendors have been actively trialing their 5G solutions, including antennas, core networks and beam forming. Since 3GPP Release 15 specs have been finalized for 5G NRs (New Radios) many of these trials have focused on interoperability between devices and 5G networks.

As a result, leading operators are now aiming for a launch date in 2019. Indeed, many operators have begun rolling out antennas and backhaul infrastructure to provide a 5G service. Initial 5G coverage will be in urban areas.

Operator Monetization Strategies for 5G:

As noted in our previous edition, ARPU (Average Revenue per User) has been considered the benchmark metric for measuring operator success in terms of billed revenue. The new services discussed in the previous sections are expected to be heavily dependent on a favorable operator service model.

There is both a need and a desire to solve the ARPU problem that network operators are facing; carriers are considering different service scenarios that they could deploy to garner payback from their network licence investments. However, the challenge here is that as 5G expected to drive a number of connected devices, systems and sensor networks, is ARPU going to be the right factor for measuring 5G? For example, consider M2M verticals:


4 thoughts on “Juniper Research: Japan & South Korea lead in 5G; NTT Docomo most promising 5G operator

  1. 5G will open up new business opportunities for telecoms operators, enabling them to offer new digital services enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain, and IoT. To be able to deliver these services to their customers and vertical segments, operators need to be “modernized” and continue to scale their business, improve speed and efficiency, said Huawei chairman Liang Hua.

    “In the 4G era, digital services can been seen as optional. But in the 5G era, where everything is in the cloud, digital services is not optional- it will be a must,” Liang said in a keynote speech kicking off the company’s Operations Transformation Forum in Munich on Monday.

    By 2025, digital services will contribute more than 20% of operators’ revenues, he said, adding that telcos need to go digital in order to monetize digital services.

    Citing MIT research, Liang highlighted the key benefits of going digital and the difference between being digitalized and becoming digital.

    “When you are digitized, you can get higher efficiency, reliability, and cost savings; when you are digital, you can achieve revenue generation and growth,” he said.

    “There are three major reasons for operators to go digital. First, you can improve the efficiency and speed of the business processes and [legacy] IT. Second, you can deliver new capabilities and services. Third, you can better capture digital opportunities.”

    To better capture the digital opportunities, he noted, operators need to shift towards “intelligent operations”, so they will be able to deliver digital services to every person, home and organization.

    He said that “automation is fundamental for intelligent operations” and the combination of AI technologies and data analytics could enable the introduction of zero-touch orchestration.

    “Data is the most important asset for operators,” he said. “Operators should use AI tools and data analytics to identify and push value added services to customers at the right time.”

    Liang said that “the process of digital transformation isn’t easy” and Huawei is working to bring “AIOps” to telcos with aims to help them reduce time to market from 18 months to weeks.

    And to successfully transform their operations, Liang said operators should “pick a scenario, start small, think big, align business and IT and scale fast.”

    As part of its efforts to support operators’ digital transformation, Huawei has teamed with HKT to set up a digital transformation practice center (DTPC) in Hong Kong, which enables operators to practice and build digital transformation capabilities.

    Bill Tang, president of Huawei Global Technical Services, said Huawei will also build a “common digital platform” that will initially be applied in the company’s internal applications, and then roll out to its customers when it’s mature.

  2. South Korea’s LG Uplus has announced it expects to start transmitting its first 5G radio waves at the start of next month ahead of a planned commercial launch of its network early next year.

    The initial deployment will center on the Seoul metropolitan area and some other major cities, Business Korea reported.

    The operator is working with France’s Forsk, a radio wave design program company, to ensure an optimal 5G deployment.

    LG Uplus is using Forsk’s Atoll radio planning software to predict the movements of 5G radio waves, and is using ray tracing techniques to mitigate the unpredictability of radio waves transmitted using 5G’s beamforming capabilities.

    Cell design for the Seoul metropolitan area commenced in October last year and has now been completed, the report states.

    But the operator does not intend to launch commercial 5G services for smartphones until 2019. In July, LG Uplus and the other South Korean mobile operators agreed to launch 5G services on the same day, expected around March next year, in order to avoid excessive competition.

  3. NTT Docomo Pacific reveals 5G Open Lab, invites businesses to experiment with faster network

    Docomo Pacific revealed Guam’s first 5G test lab Wednesday at their Tamuning headquarters, where worldwide and local business partners can experiment with a 5G environment.

    “5G is everything we’re doing now, just faster and better,” said Docomo Pacific CEO and president Rod Boss. “This lab is really the first step to developing 5G.”

    A 5G network is not available to customers yet, he said. The lab space is meant to further the development of a 5G network on Guam and connect local businesses with the service.

    “Remember what it was like when you got your first cell phone or your first internet connection?” Boss said. “It took 10 minutes, 20 minutes to download one episode of something, then it went only taking a minute, now we’re impatient if it takes 5 seconds. What 5G will bring us, is that it’ll happen instantaneous.”

    This improved 5G network, he said, provides a platform for efficient applications, such as Smooth Space, a video-conference app.

  4. South Korea:

    The Republic of (South) Korea announced for the goal of the world’s first commercialization in February 2018 and finished auction for 5G Spectrum in Jun. 2018 and certified 5G base station equipment in September 2018 and launched 5G service using mobile routers first in December 2018.
    The new milestone of 1 million 5G subscribers was reached on 10th June 2019, 69 days after Korea became the first country in the world to officially launch 5G commercial services on April 3, 2019.

    Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) announced the 3rd plan (from 2019 to 2023) on January 25, 2019. The master plan for radio waves promotion is mid- and long-term spectrum policy for every 5 years. The potential additional candidate bands for 5G are divided into two parts, below 6 GHz bands and above 24 GHz bands.

    (Band below 6 GHz)
    – 2 300 2 390 MHz (former WiBro service band)
    – Adjacent band(s) with the 3.5 GHz band (e.g. 3.4-3.42 GHz and 3.7-4.2 GHz, portions thereof)
    – Portion(s) of 1 452 1 492 MHz band
    – If necessary, prepare supplementary supply plan such as 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz band etc.
    (Band above 24 GHz) To secure additional 2 GHz bandwidth, Korea is considering the availability of equipment/terminals and WRC-19 results
    Table Planned schedule
    ‘19 ‘20 ‘21 ‘22 ‘23
    5G Allocation 2.3 GHz band Adjacent band(s) with 3.5 GHz band 1.4 GHz band Bands above 24 GHz
    (2G-4G) Existing bands

    5G+ Strategy
    MSIT and nine other related ministries jointly announced the “5G+ strategy” at the “Korean 5G Tech-Concert” on April 8.
    The vision of 5G+ strategy is realization of innovative growth through 5G+ and the goal is achieving 180 trillion won in the production of 5G+ strategic industry by 2026 (15% of the global market share)
    The Korean government is planning to foster 15 5G-based “strategic industries” to create 600 000 jobs and export $73 billion worth of goods and services by 2026.

    The 15 industries consist of five “Key services” and 10 “Key industries”. The five key services include immersive content, smart factory, autonomous vehicles, smart city and digital health care, while the 10 key industries include network device, next-generation smart phone, AR·VR Device, wearable device, intelligent CCTV, future drone, connected robot, 5G V2X, information security and edge computing.
    5G frequency allocation in Japan:
    Toward the launch of 5G in 2020, MIC (Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications) allocated frequency for 4 operators.
    China (People’s Republic of):
    On 6th June, MIIT of China issued 5G commercial licenses to four major operators, which are China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Broadcasting Network.

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