5G Covid-19

Covid-19 unlikely to delay 5G deployments

27 May 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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Mobile service providers are making “substantial progress” in their 5G roll outs despite the additional challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The insight – Toward a More Secure 5G World – was published by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network in partnership with A10 Networks and found that 45% of mobile service providers said their companies are “moving rapidly toward commercial deployment”, up from 26% last year.

Elsewhere in the report, 81% said industry progress toward 5G is moving rapidly, mostly in major markets, or is at least in line with expectations.

In recent weeks, Sweden has turned on its commercial 5G network and China Mobile has awarded 5G contracts for 5G build outs. However, India and Poland are just two of the markets that have faced delays and cancellations to 5G spectrum auctions, delaying their roll out projects.

“Our latest study indicates that major mobile carriers around the world are on track with their 5G plans, and more expect to begin commercial build-outs in the coming months,” said Dave Murray, director of thought leadership with the BPI Network.

“While Covid-19 may result in some short-term delays for operators, the pandemic ultimately demonstrates a global need for higher speed, higher capacity 5G networks and the applications and use case they enable.”

As many as 95% percent of respondents said virtualising network functions was important to their 5G plans, and some three-quarters said their companies were either well on their way or making good progress toward virtualisation.

Meanwhile, 99% viewed deployment of mobile edge clouds as an important aspect of 5G networks, with 65% saying they expect edge clouds on their 5G networks within 18 months.

“Mobile operators globally need to proactively prepare for the demands of a new virtualised and secure 5G world,” said Gunter Reiss, worldwide vice president of A10 Networks.

“That means boosting security at key protection points like the mobile edge, deploying a cloud-native infrastructure, consolidating network functions, leveraging new CI/CD integrations and DevOps automation tools, and moving to an agile and hyperscale service-based architecture as much as possible. All of these improvements will pay dividends immediately with existing networks and move carriers closer to their ultimate goals for broader 5G adoption and the roll-out of new and innovative ultra-reliable low-latency use cases,” he added.

Virtually all respondents said improved security was a critical network requirement and a top concern in the 5G era.

Early 5G networks are being designed in accordance with the already-approved non-standalone 5G standard. However, 30% of respondents said they are already proactively planning to add standalone 5G, and another 9% said their companies will move directly to standalone.

Standalone 5G will require a whole new network core utilising a cloud-native, virtualised, service-based architecture. Many respondents, in fact, say they are making significant progress toward network virtualisation.