GSA: 5G Market Snapshot – 5G networks, 5G devices, 5G SA status

By end October 2021, GSA had identified 469 operators in 140 countries/territories were investing in 5G, including trials, acquisition of licenses, planning, network deployment and launches. (This number excludes nearly 200 additional companies awarded spectrum in the US CBRS PAL auction, which could potentially be used for 5G).

  • Of those, a total of 182 operators in 73 countries/territories had launched one or more 3GPP-compliant 5G services
  • 173 operators in 69 countries/territories had launched 5G mobile services
  • 65 operators in 36 countries/territories had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G FWA services (36% of those with launched 5G services)
  • Five operators had announced soft launches of their 5G networks that are not counted in the above launch figures.
  • 97 operators are identified as investing in 5G standalone (including those evaluating/testing, piloting, planning, deploying as well as those that have launched 5G SA networks).
  • GSA has catalogued 20 operators as having deployed/launched 5G SA in public networks

As for 5G endpoint devices:

The number of announced 5G devices continues to rise and has now reached 1115, an increase of 18.9% in the last quarter. Of these devices, 67.7% are understood to be commercially available. The number of commercial 5G devices has grown by 24.2% over the last three months passing 750 for the first time, to reach a total of 755 devices understood to be commercially available.

By end-October 2021, GSA had identified:

  • twenty-two announced form factors.
  • one hundred and sixty-five vendors who had announced available or forthcoming 5G devices.
  • one thousand, one hundred and fifteen announced devices (including regional variants, but excluding operator-branded devices that are essentially re-badged versions of other phones), including 755 that are understood to be commercially available:
  • five hundred and fifty phones (up 27 from September), at least 491 of which are now commercially available (up 32 in a month).
  • one hundred and ninety FWA CPE devices (indoor and outdoor), at least of which 90 are now commercially available.
  • one hundred and fifty-six modules.
  • seventy-one industrial/enterprise routers/gateways/modems.
  • forty-eight battery operated hotspots.
  • twenty-five tablets.
  • twenty laptops (notebooks).
  • eleven in-vehicle routers/modems/hotspots.
  • eight USB terminals/dongles/modems.
  • thirty-six other devices (including drones, head-mounted displays, robots, TVs, cameras, femtocells/small cells, repeaters, vehicle OBUs, a snap-on dongle/adapter, a switch, a vending machine and an encoder).
  • six hundred and twenty-seven announced devices with declared support for 5G standalone in sub-6 GHz bands, 434 of which are commercially available.

Not all devices are available immediately and specification details remain limited for some devices.

We can expect the availability of devices to continue to improve and for more information about announced devices to emerge as they reach the market. Based on vendors’ previous statements and recent rates of device release, we might expect to see the number of commercial devices surpassing the 820 mark by the end of Q4 2021. GSA will be tracking and reporting regularly on these 5G device launch announcements. Its GAMBoD database contains key details about device form factors, features and support for spectrum bands. Summary statistics are released in this regular monthly publication.

More information on 5G SA networks:

Operators are increasingly experimenting with and deploying 5G standalone (SA) networks. With a totally new, cloud-based, virtualized, microservices-based core infrastructure, some of the anticipated benefits of introducing 5G SA technologies include faster connection times (lower latency), support for massive numbers of devices, programmable systems enabling faster and more agile creation of services and network slices, with improved support for SLA management within those slices, and the advent of voice-over new radio (VoNR). Introduction of 5G SA is expected to facilitate simplification of architectures, improve security and reduce costs. 5G SA is expected to enable customization and open up new service and revenue opportunities tailored to enterprise, industrial and government customers.

GSA is tracking the emergence of the 5G SA system, including the availability of chipsets and devices for customers, plus the testing and then deployment of 5G SA networks by public mobile network operators as well as private network operators. This paper is the latest in an ongoing series of papers summarising market trends, drawing on the data collected in GSA’s various databases covering chipsets, devices, spectrum and networks.

Investment in 5G SA by public and private network operators

5G SA networks can be deployed in a variety of scenarios: as an overlay for a public 5G non-SA (NSA) network, as a greenfield 5G deployment for a public network operator without a separate LTE network, or as a private network deployment for an enterprise, utility, education, government or any other organization requiring its own private campus network.

GSA has identified 94 operators in 48 countries/territories worldwide that have been investing in public 5G SA networks (in the form of trials, planned or actual deployments). This equates to just over 20% of the 469 operators known to be investing in 5G licenses, trials or deployments of any type.

At least 19 operators in 15 countries/territories are now understood to have launched public 5G SA networks. A further four have deployed 5G SA technology but not yet launched services, or have only soft-launched them. In addition to these, at least 25 have been catalogued as deploying or piloting 5G standalone, 28 as planning to deploy the technology and 18 as being involved in evaluations/tests/trials.

A recent survey of European and North American mobile operators by Heavy Reading and EXFO (published October 2021) revealed that 49% of them plan to deploy 5G SA within a year and that a further 39% plan to deploy 5G SA within one or two years. Meanwhile, vendors are reporting the deployment of 5G core SA networks that are not announced publicly. So the active deployments and launches catalogued by GSA so far will be the first of many.

In addition to the investment in 5G SA for public mobile networks mentioned above, a number of organizations are testing, piloting or deploying 5G SA technologies for private networks. GSA has developed a new database tracking private mobile network licenses, trials and deployments. It has collated information about 626 organizations known to be deploying LTE or 5G private mobile networks, or known to have been granted a license suitable for the deployment of a private LTE or 5G network so far. Of those, 151 are known to be using 5G networks (excluding those labelled as 5G-ready) for private mobile network pilots or deployments. Of those, 27 (nearly 18% of them) are known to be working with 5G SA already, including manufacturers, academic organizations, commercial research institutes, construction, communications/IT services, rail and aviation organizations.



Despite the above 5G status report, many believe that 5G has been a failure. For example, Half-Baked Business Models…… from SDxCentral.



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