Gartner: Market Guide for 3GPP “5G New Radio (NR)” Infrastructure

Editor’s Note:

Most mobile 5G deployments to date are based on 3GPP Release 15 “5G NR” or “NR”in the data plane and Non Stand Alone (NSA), with LTE for everything else (i.e. control plane/signalling, mobile packet core, network management, etc).  3GPP Release 16 will hopefully add ultra low latency, ultra high reliability to the 5G NR data plane.  Equally important will be the 5G systems architecture-phase 2 that will be specified in Release 16. That spec includes a 5G mobile packet core (5GC) which is a forklift upgrade from the 4G-LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC).  It remains to be seen which ITU study group will standardized 5GC when 3GPP Release 16 is completed in late June 2020.

From the paper titled Narrowband Internet of Things 5G Performance published in 2019 IEEE 90th Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2019-Fall):

5G NR supports new frequency bands ranging all the way up to 52.6 GHz. These new frequency bands make large system bandwidths available that are needed to improve the mobile broadband data rates beyond what LTE can offer.

NR also supports a reduced latency by means of reduced transmission time intervals and shortened device processing times compared to LTE. To provide high reliability, NR supports low code rates and a high level of redundancy.

In the initial phase of the transition from 4G to 5G, NR is expected to be a complement to both LTE and NB-IoT, providing enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and critical IoT services. The past industrial practice suggests that the mobile network operators will stepwise re-farm parts of its LTE spectrum for enabling NR. Since NR supports a new range of frequency bands, an attractive alternative approach is to deploy NR in a set of new rather than existing bands. 3GPP Release 15 allows NR to connect to the EPC to support a seamless transition from LTE to NR.

The NR traffic volumes will eventually motivate a full refarming of the LTE MBB spectrum to NR. The longevity of NB-IoT devices is however expected to make NB-IoT a natural component within the 5G echo-system. For this reason, NR supports reservation of radio resources to enable LTE operation including NB-IoT, within an NR carrier. This allows NB-IoT to add NR in-band operation to its list of supported deployment options. Since both NR and NB-IoT employ an OFDM based modulation with support for 15-kHz subcarrier numerology, in the downlink (DL) true interference-free orthogonality can be achieved without configuration of guard-bands between the two systems.



From Gartner report published Dec 16, 2019:

By Peter LiuSylvain FabreKosei Takiishi


As communications service providers move forward with 5G commercialization, New Radio infrastructure investment is prioritized and crucial for 5G rollout success. We analyze the market direction and the product strategies of equipment vendors to help guide product managers in CSPs.

By 2021, investments in 5G NR network infrastructure will account for 19% of the total wireless infrastructure revenue of communications service providers (CSPs), elevated from 6% in 2019.

5G NR is a new  Radio Access Technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP. There are two key components that are included physically — Next Generation Node B (gNB) and antennas. The Next Generation Node B (gNB) can be further split into two main functional modules — the centralized unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU) which can be deployed in multiple combinations.
There are several key features related to 5G New Radio, which include, but are not limited to:
  • Support for new subcarrier spacing
  • Massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO)/beamforming
  • Enhanced scheduling by hybrid automatic repeat request (HARQ)
  • Cyclic-prefix orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (CP-OFDM) and discrete fourier transform spread orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (DFTS-OFDM)
  • Bandwidth part (BWP) and carrier aggregation (CA)
The form of 5G NR infrastructure can be microcell, small cell (indoor/outdoor) and macrocell.
Gartner defines 5G using the 3GPP standard body definition. 5G New Radio (NR) is a new Radio Access Technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP for the  fifth generation (5G) mobile network. It was designed to be the global standard for the air interface of 5G networks. 5G New Radio infrastructure in this Market Guide refers to the 3GPP 5G RAN architecture — specified in Release 15 and known as NG-RAN. There are two key components included physically — 5G radio base station (gNBs) and antennas. The 5G radio base stations (gNBs) can be further split into three main functional modules — the centralized unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU) and the radio unit (RU) — which can be deployed in multiple combinations.
There are several key features related to 5G New Radio, which include but are not limited to:
  • New Radio spectrum
  • Optimized orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM)
  • Adaptive beamforming
  • Massive MIMO
  • Spectrum sharing
  • Unified design across frequencies
The form of 5G NR infrastructure can be microcell, small cell (indoor/ outdoor) and macrocell.

Key Findings:

  • The deployment of 5G New Radio (NR) products will accelerate in 2020, through high total cost of ownership (TCO), absence of “killer application,” unmatured millimeter wave ecosystem and inexpensive device availability that prevent rapid growth in capital investment.
  • Most of current commercial 5G sub-6 gigahertz (GHz) communications service providers (CSPs) also start building their multiband strategy which is in line with their business strategy; for example, sub-1GHz for coverage enhancement and millimeter wave for capacity.
  • Initial 5G deployment was based on non-stand-alone (NSA) architecture which couples the Long Term Evolution (LTE) with 5G NR radio layers to accelerate time to market and reduce cost. This coexistence will last for many years, though specific CSPs may move toward stand-alone (SA) deployment as early as 2020.
  • Open radio access network (RAN) and virtualized RAN (vRAN) have seen an increase in attention after Rakuten Mobile announced its commercial adoption in LTE. However, fragmented standards, incumbent vendor support, technology immaturity and poor fiber availability continue to hamper its success.

Market Description

Global 5G infrastructure market is expected to witness significant growth over the coming years. 5G technology has the potential to support capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), apart from the high-speed network performance. Thus, with growing internet penetration and rapidly increasing mobile users, healthy growth would be seen in the years to come in the global 5G infrastructure market.
However, although the pace of 5G is significantly more accelerated than 4G, we all acknowledge it will be a marathon. CSPs are still very cautious and fast adoption today does not necessarily equal fast deployment in scale. While CSPs are still seeking killer applications and are under increasing financial pressures due to the expensive spectrum, they also recognize that 5G deployment is more challenging than before. Higher frequencies, combining LTE and 5G together, as well as NSA and SA cores, is proving to be a complex undertaking.
Despite some uncertainty brought about by geopolitical challenges, overall, current NSA setup largely benefits the existing dominant LTE vendors such as Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE — since it is the most cost-effective way to deliver 5G on board. Other key criteria important to CSPs include:
  • Baseband unit capacity
  • Portfolio broadness
  • Deployment feasibility
  • Technology evolution
This provides less opportunities for niche vendors promoting their open RAN concept in the short term. The situation will be improved when SA and small cell have been deployed. From a spectrum perspective, for the higher bands (particularly mmWave), the main issue is the ability to acquire large numbers of suitable sites and deliver the coverage people expect. For midband (sub-6Ghz) deployments, this issue is not as significant due to the ability to reuse sites, for the most part. For frequency division duplex (FDD) bands, complete reuse is, of course, possible.
5G is already available in many major cities, with more coverage expected in 2020. Given the momentum for 5G, Gartner forecast calls for growth in carrier infrastructure spending in 2019 and faster growth in 2020. Considering majority deployment will be based on non-stand-alone architecture, 5G NR infrastructure will represent the biggest portion of the 5G investment.
Despite the hype around 5G, CSPs are looking for a practical 5G implementation strategy that allows them to quickly launch Phase 1 5G services (enhanced mobile broadband [eMBB], fixed wireless access [FWA]) in a cost-efficient way. Decisions on where, when and which vendors to work with are driven by commercial considerations and are also related to spectrum availability, deployment feasibility as well as ecosystem maturity.
5G Application Has Different Time Scales

Recommendations for 5G Communications Service Providers (CSPs):

To better enable infrastructure delivery strategies, product managers should:
  • Build a step-wise 5G NR implementation strategy by initially focusing on best use of existing infrastructure investment, then simplifying the deployment in order to reduce the time to market and minimize risk.
  • Develop spectrum strategies based on business focus, frequencies available as well as ecosystem maturity. Choose the vendors that have preferred radio spectrum support with combinations of spectrum reframing and sharing.
  • Select the 5G NR solution by accessing a vendor’s capabilities of interworking with existing 4G/LTE networks and its ability to provide a high degree of continuity and seamless experience for users. In addition, explore a seamless software upgrade path to enable 5G SA evolution.
  • Build an end-to-end understanding of the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) impact on network, operations, performance and procurement by conducting a proof of concept (POC)/pilot.


Acronym Key and Glossary Terms

second generation
third generation
Third Generation Partnership Project
fourth generation
fifth generation
Active Antenna Unit
artificial intelligence
augmented reality
application-specific integrated circuit
baseband unit
bandwidth part
cloud radio access network
carrier aggregation
capital expenditure
Citizens Broadband Radio Service
coordinated multipoint
cyclic-prefix orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
customer premises equipment
communications service provider
centralized unit
Digital/Analog Front End
discrete fourier transform spread orthogonal frequency-division multiple access
digital indoor system
distributed unit
enhanced Common Public Radio Interface
enhanced mobile broadband
Evolved Packet Core
frequency division duplex
fixed wireless access
gigabits per second
Next Generation Node B
hybrid automatic repeat request
infrastructure and operations
instantaneous bandwidth (ZTE)
integrated circuit
information and communication technology
International Mobile Telecommunications-2020
Internet of Things
International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector
Licensed Assisted Access
Long Term Evolution
LTE Vehicle
Multiple Input/Multiple Output Adaptive Antenna
machine learning
multiple input/multiple output
Massive Machine Type Communications
millimeter wave (frequencies above 24GHz)
multioperator core network
multicarrier radio access network
Multi-Operator Servers (Mavenir)
network function virtualization
New Radio
Open Radio Access Network
occupied bandwidth
original equipment manufacturer
orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
operating expenditure
proof of concept
physical resource blocks
quadrature amplitude modulation
research and development
radio access network
Radio Access Technology
RAN Intelligent Controller (Nokia)
radio frequency
Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit
remote radio unit
radio unit
software-defined network
software-defined radio
self-organizing network
Low-band frequencies are those at 600MHz, 800MHz, and 900MHz.
Frequencies under 6GHz but above the low-band frequencies (2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, and 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz).
Supplementary Uplink
total cost of ownership
Time Division-Long Term Evolution
time division duplex
Ultra Broadband RRU (ZTE)
ultrareliable and low-latency communications
virtual reality
virtualized radio access network
Work Group 2
Work Group 3
Evidence has been collected from:
  • Gartner surveys
  • CSP and vendor briefings, plus discussions
  • Associated Gartner research
  • Gartner market forecasts
  • Gartner client discussions


References- related Gartner posts:

Gartner: Telecom at the Edge + Distributed Cloud in 3 Stages

Gartner Group Innovation & Insight: Cutting Through the 5G Hype

4 thoughts on “Gartner: Market Guide for 3GPP “5G New Radio (NR)” Infrastructure

  1. Are 3GPP and ITU now irrelevant for 5G specs?

    The 5G Future Forum will collaborate to develop interoperable 5G specifications across key geographic regions, including the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The Forum’s founding members are América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone.

    The 5G Future Forum will focus on the creation of uniform interoperability specifications to improve speed to market for developers and multinational enterprises working on 5G-enabled solutions. In addition, Forum participants will develop public and private marketplaces to enhance developer and customer access to 5G, and will share global best practices in technology deployment.

  2. Japan is reportedly working on its 6G strategy for 2030, in spite of slow 5G roll out

    There are reports that Japan is already looking beyond 5G to draw up plans for “post-5G” technology by 2030. Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications plans to create a joint government–civilian research society this January. The panel will focus on policy, technology and potential use cases. Local media suggests that the first meeting could take place as early as next Monday. Key players, such as NTT and Toshiba, will reportedly also be invited to share their views on 6G’s potential and related policies in June. As always, speculation is rife about the potential of this future technology, with some suggesting that it could be ten times faster than 5G. Other benefits are likely to include the ability to smoothly connect multiple devices simultaneously, increased safety measures, and reduced power consumption. Last year, the Japanese government pledged 220 billion yen (~$2 billion) to encourage private sector research in 6G technology. “The smooth introduction of standards for next-generation wireless communications networks is indispensable to boosting Japan’s international competitiveness,” said Japan’s communications minister Sanae Takaichi. This focus on 6G may come as something of a surprise to those who note that Japan’s 5G rollout has not been as rapid its local neighbours, China and South Korea, which both launched the technology last year. Japan, on the other hand, has a plan to launch so-called “local 5G” this spring, with the infrastructure to be installed in some specific areas, such as selected hospitals and factories. NTT is also reportedly planning to launch a 5G video-streaming service in March. Japan is not the first country to get the ball rolling with 6G development. Finland is one country notably already developing the technology – the University of Oulu published what has been described as 6G’s first white paper in September – and China announced its 6G ambitions just days after three of its mobile operators launched 5G last November. With the global focus on the 5G race, it is easy to forget that technology is a continuum, constantly evolving and inching ever closer redefining itself. The starting gun for the 6G race has already been fired and Japan, for one, is looking for a place on the podium.


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