Worldwide 5G network infrastructure revenue is on pace to grow 39% to total $19.1 billion in 2021, up from $13.7 billion in 2020, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
Communications service providers (CSPs) in mature markets accelerated 5G development in 2020 and 2021 with 5G representing 39% of total wireless infrastructure revenue this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic spiked demand for optimized and ultrafast broadband connectivity to support work-from-home and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as streaming video, online gaming and social media applications,” said Michael Porowski, senior principal research analyst at Gartner.
5G is the fastest growing segment in the wireless network infrastructure market (see Table 1). Of the segments that comprise wireless infrastructure in this forecast, the only significant opportunity for investment growth is in 5G. Investment in legacy wireless generations is rapidly deteriorating across all regions and spending on non-5G small cells is poised to decline as CSPs move to 5G small cells.
Table 1: Wireless Network Infrastructure Revenue Forecast, Worldwide (Millions of U.S. Dollars)
|Segment||2020 Revenue||2021 Revenue||2022 Revenue|
|LTE and 4G||17,127.8||14,569.1||12,114.0|
|3G and 2G||3,159.6||1,948.2||1,095.2|
|Small Cells Non-5G||6,588.5||7,117.9||7,113.9|
Source: Gartner (August 2021)
Regionally, CSPs in North America are set to grow 5G revenue from $2.9 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2021, due, in part, to increased adoption of dynamic spectrum sharing and millimeter wave base stations. In Western Europe, CSPs will prioritize on licensing spectrum, modernizing mobile core infrastructure and navigating regulatory processes with 5G revenue expected to increase from $794 million in 2020 to $1.6 billion in 2021.
Greater China is expected to maintain the No.1 global position in global 5G revenue reaching $9.1 billion in 2021, up from $7.4 billion in 2020. With China’s government funding 5G development for the three state owned carriers, that’s no surprise.
The big beneficiaries of China’s 5G infrastructure spending will be its domestic equipment makers, Huawei, ZTE, and (state owned) Datang Telecom. Despite clamoring for Sweden to permit Huawei 5G equipment to be deployed, Ericsson only received 3% of a joint 5G radio contracts from China Telecom, China Unicom and 2% from China Mobile, according to Reuters. Nokia, which was expected to take away Ericsson’s market share in China, did not receive any share, according to a tender document published by the Chinese companies.
In a way that’s a win for the Swedish vendor – and a brief share price hike backs up that statement – which won just 2% of an earlier deal from China Mobile. But if they want to secure their share of the multiple billions of dollars of global 5G infrastructure revenues forecast by Gartner, the likes of Ericsson and Nokia will need to keep winning contracts in their home markets.
5G Coverage in Tier-1 Cities Will Reach 60% in 2024:
While 10% of CSPs in 2020 provided commercialized 5G services, which could achieve multiregional availability, Gartner predicts that this number will increase to 60% by 2024, which is a similar rate of adoption for 4G- LTE in the past.
“Business and customer demand is an influencing factor in this growth. As consumers return to the office, they will continue to upgrade or switch to gigabit fiber to the home (FTTH) service as connectivity has become an essential remote work service,” said Porowski. “Users will also increasingly scrutinize CSPs for both office and remote work needs.”
This rapid shift in customer behavior is driving growth in the global passive optical network (PON) market as a preferred technology. The 10-Gigabit-capable symmetric-PON (XGS-PON) is not a new technology and with the price difference with other technologies narrowing, CSPs are willing to invest in XGS-PON to differentiate themselves in customer experience and network quality. Gartner estimates that by 2025, 60% of Tier-1 CSPs will adopt XGS-PON technology at large-scale to deliver ultrafast broadband services to residential and business users, up from less than 30% in 2020.
Gartner clients can learn more in the reports “Forecast Analysis: Communications Service Provider Operational Technology, Worldwide” and “Forecast: Communications Service Provider Operational Technology, Worldwide, 2019-2025, 2Q21 Update.”
While Gartner did not split out small cells’ contribution to the overall 5G infrastructure segment, evidence thus far suggests the market is progressing more slowly than many had once believed.
Last month, Crown Castle increased its guidance for the second time this year due to a strong cell towers market, but halved the number of small cells it expects to deploy in 2021 to 5,000. The company noted that wireless network operators have focused on tower-based 5G rollouts at the expense of small cells.