5G: Managing Component-level Risks for Commercial Success

It’s a 5G world already. The year 2019 witnessed the first wave of standards-based 5G commercial launches. According to the Global mobile Suppliers’ Association (GSA), at the end of 2019, 61 operators had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G commercial services across 34 countries. Half of these hadlaunched 5G fixed wireless access (services), targeting areas lacking quality fixed broadband connectivity. In all, GSA noted, 348 operators in 119 countries were investing in 5G. The development of the 5G device ecosystem has also been ramping up quickly. As of January 2020, according to GSA, 78 vendors had announced over 200 5G devices. These came in no less than sixteen different form factors, such as smartphones, indoor and outdoor CPE (customer premises equipment), laptops/notebooks, robots, drones, enterprise routers, IoT routers and dongles/adapters. Of the over 200 announced 5G devices, 60 were commercially available, including 35 smartphones. To put this progress in context, the first year of LTE availability (following TeliaSonera’s launch in December 2009), just 4 operators launched services and 3 vendors offered devices. Within 9 months of launching 5G, South Korea’s three mobile operators had attracted 4.7 million 5G subscriptions, around 8% of their mobile customer base.

But we are still in the early days of 5G. Today’s commercial networks are based on 5G New Radio Non-Standalone (5G NR NSA) specifications that completed in December 2017, 6 months ahead of schedule due to a strong push from various stakeholders that wished to deploy 5G as soon as possible. The remainder of 5G Stage 3 (also part of 3GPP Release 15), including Next Generation Core Network (5G CN), also abbreviated NGCN, was completed 14 June 2018, during 5G World in London, and enables 5G deployments in a standalone (SA) mode.

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