Without a doubt, 2020 has tested us all in completely unexpected ways. We know the challenges we’re facing won’t magically disappear when our calendars roll into 2021. But as we near the end of a trying year, we’d be remiss to not reflect on what has gone right to help keep us moving forward as a global industry.
At Spirent, we know from our extensive 5G work with customers that while plans were certainly disrupted this year, deployments largely stayed on track. In some cases, they even accelerated as we see a persistent uptick in testing initiatives worldwide.
Considering how many industries were so negatively impacted by this global pandemic, there is much to be thankful for as telecom continues to successfully push ahead. Here are just a few of the 2020 5G-related developments that will ensure 2021 efforts kick off with considerable momentum:
5G Standalone coming faster than first thought – As we first noted in our inaugural 5G outlook report, 5G Standalone (SA) networks are being deployed more quickly than first anticipated. Even against the backdrop of a global pandemic, progress on this front has been substantial. The first phase of 5G Non-standalone networks were about speed boosts. But 5G SA? Now we’re talking differentiation, service creation and market value. It’s about breaking into new markets and launching new services by harnessing the power and flexibility of 5G SA’s new architecture.
More markets open up to Open RAN – During 2020, interest in Open RAN increased substantially, with trials kicking off in more than a dozen countries around the world. Importantly, progress is being driven by major players as evidenced by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and other open initiatives. We also saw collaboration between GSMA and O-RAN Alliance to accelerate adoption that will ultimately make access networks as open and flexible as possible for new market entrants.
Private cellular networks get a boost – The start of 2020 saw the FCC open the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band for commercial private networks. So far, government entities sharing the band with new users report no interference and multiple providers have announced partnerships and plans for new enterprise-focused managed services. Germany’s regulator allocated 5G spectrum in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band to more than 100 applicants for use in private networks, Industry 4.0, agriculture and forestry. With auctions and early trials going well, we expect to see private cellular network rollouts pick up steam headed into next year.
Wi-Fi 6 plus 5G a match made in heaven for the enterprise – Often positioned as competitive to 5G, we actually continue to see Wi-Fi 6 as complementary, especially considering the relative ease of deployment. The fact is that the convergence of these technologies will be a big boost for enterprise innovation, enabling mixing and matching of 5G and Wi-Fi as needs demand. As this happens, get ready for more use cases being sped to market more quickly, such as Fixed Wireless Access, where we are seeing COVID-driven behaviors accelerating interest.
Peace of mind and more time for family – 2020 has given so many of us a glimpse of how a remote or virtual work environment will impact our future lives. More time with friends, family, hobbies – you name it. As Spirent CEO Eric Updyke noted last month, “Though physical offices will remain in our foreseeable future, they no longer define how we conduct business.” In the telecom industry alone, as more carriers embrace trusted managed solutions, network automation proliferates and 5G networks introduce unprecedented resiliency, the ability to effectively manage networks from anywhere becomes possible. So too does a better work/life balance.
Considering how many industries were so negatively impacted by this global pandemic, there is much to be thankful for as telecom continues to successfully push ahead.
We have our collective work cut out for us in the months and years ahead to truly deliver on the full promise of 5G. But with so much important and fruitful work already behind us, it’s nice to take a moment and consider all that we’ve accomplished so far. 5G is exactly where it’s supposed to be: showcasing hyper-flexibility, breathing new innovation into new industries, creating compelling narratives for the latest consumer devices, and starting to make our lives easier. And for that, we are thankful.
For those of you that celebrate- from all of us at Spirent to you and your families, I wish you a very happy and restful Thanksgiving. May it bring many more reasons to be thankful.