A new list from U.K.-based Juniper Research ranks Asian operators SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, KT, and China Mobile higher than AT&T in the list of “most promising” 5G network operators. The research firm said that it based its rankings on the operators’ time in development; the breadth and value of the operators’ 5G partnerships; and their progress in 5G network testing.
SK Telecom is the No. 1 operator on the list, according to Juniper, because of its extensive 5G trials that tested technologies such as millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum; massive input, massive output (MIMO) transmission; and network slicing. The last technology capitalizes on the capabilities of software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), orchestration, and analytics, to support a variety of vertical industries such as automotive, healthcare, and media.
SK Telecom is planning to launch 5G commercially in the second half of 2019. Speaking earlier this year at a 5G North America event in Austin, Texas, Alex Jinsung Choi, EVP and head of corporate R&D at SK Telecom, said the company will have 5G mmWave radios in smartphones by 2019, indicating the network will support mobile 5G, not just fixed wireless.
AT&T has said it could deliver commercial 5G services by late 2018. In a March blog post, AT&T CTO and President of AT&T Labs Andre Fuetsch said the the 3GPP’s acceleration of the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) specification from March 2018 to December 2017 means that key components of the 5G standards, like chipset development, can be completed months ahead of the full release of the 3GPP Release 15 5G standard.
Noticeably absent from Juniper Research’s list of the Top 5 “most promising” network operators list is Verizon Wireless. Verizon has a very aggressive 5G roadmap that includes deploying pre-standard fixed 5G service by year-end 2018 if the company’s 5G friendly user trials are successful. The company said it would offer pre-commercial 5G services to pilot customers in several markets this year.
5G Revenue Could Top $269B
Juniper Research also said it believes 5G operator-billed service revenue could hit $851 million in 2019, and jump to $269 billion by 2025, a whopping 161 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in just seven years.
About two-thirds (66 percent) of that revenue will come from North America, the Far East, and China.
Juniper based that ROI projection on the fact that many operators will be adopting SDN. Because of the virtualization of the network, the investment in 5G will be lower and operators will begin to realize the return on their investment by as early as 2024.
The firm said it anticipates the majority of 5G subscribers will be upgrading from 4G and therefore will pay a premium over what they had been paying for 4G services. However, it also expects initial 5G users to be very low.