5G Technology of the Year

For the mobile market, 2020 has become the year of fifth generation technologies (5G) – the number of commercial networks has exceeded 100, and by the end of the year 15% of the world’s population will live in their coverage area. It is already clear that 5G will become the fastest growing technology, which will significantly outstrip the standards of previous generations in terms of the rate of distribution. By the end of the year, operators will gain 220 million 5G connections, and in 2026 – already 3.5 billion. New scenarios are being created that take advantage of the key advantages of 5G technologies: low latency, high speed and reliable protection of transmitted data.

The fifth generation is overtaking

Ericsson today unveiled a new edition of its Ericsson Mobility Report for November 2020, which summarizes the results of the current year and presents a forecast for the development of the mobile communications market until 2026. 5G networks will develop significantly faster than 4G (LTE) networks at one time. As a result, by the end of 2026, there will be 3.5 billion 5G connections in the world, which is 40% of all connections in mobile networks. In 2026, 60% of the world’s population will live in 5G coverage.

The fifth generation is the fastest growing among all generations of cellular communications. Now 106 commercial 5G networks have been put into commercial operation, and by the end of 2020 there will be 220 million 5G connections in the world. This is a pleasant surprise for mobile operators, since earlier the demand was estimated at a more modest figure – 150 million connections by the end of this year.

Each country has its own approach to creating 5G networks, but in general, coverage is being deployed based on three principles: in the new frequency range below 6 GHz, in the millimeter-wave range and on LTE frequencies. In the US, all three options are used, so 5G technologies cover most of the territory and population. For comparison, in Germany and Spain, 5G technologies are being deployed on frequencies that were previously available to operators. And China is creating 5G networks mostly in new frequency bands – their availability for operators allows them to create wide coverage throughout the country.

An important milestone in 2020 was the launch of the first 5G network with Autonomous Architecture (SA), a 5G network that does not require previous generation network infrastructure to function.

2021: 4.8 billion 4G connections

Despite the rapid deployment of 5G networks, LTE is premature to write off – this technology will remain dominant in the coming years. Operators continue to improve the quality of 4G networks – capacity and data transfer rates are growing. There are currently 795 commercial 4G networks operating in the world. 324 of them are LTE-Advanced networks and 41 are Gigabit LTE networks.

By the end of 2020, there will be 4.5 billion connections in global LTE networks, which is 57% of all mobile connections.  LTE demand will peak in 2021, when the number of connections will reach 4.8 billion, and then the demand for LTE services will begin to gradually decline and by the end of 2026 will amount to only 3.9 billion connections. The reason is obvious – the migration of subscribers to 5G technology.

2026: 54% of traffic on 5G networks

According to a new Ericsson Mobility Report, mobile data traffic will reach 51 EB per month by the end of 2020 and then continue to grow 4.5 times per month to 226 EB per month in 2026. Traffic is generated by users of smartphones, laptops and other devices. Over time, more and more data will be processed on 5G networks, which will account for 54% of traffic by 2026. By this time, 5G smartphones will be used by more than three billion people, up from 200 million in 2020.

5G is the key to mission-critical connections

With the development of 5G networks, use cases based on critical Internet of things (Criticality) device connections will become widespread. With the development of 5G networks and the fifth generation of the Internet of Things (IoT), many new services will emerge for people and society at large, and the growth of the 5G technology network segment will drive business development in all sectors. Data transmission in a guaranteed period of time – for example, 50 milliseconds with a 99.9% guarantee – will be necessary for the operation of applications designed to control devices from a distance, as well as for entertainment services.

Ericsson experts have identified four types of promising 5G use cases that require a network connection with guaranteed data transfer times.

Real-time media technologies are connections where data transfer timing plays a key role. They allow you to create industrial applications and cloud gaming services using augmented and virtual reality (AR / VR) technologies.
Remote control of devices – a person remotely controls machines and equipment moving on the ground and in the air. People will no longer have to work in difficult climatic and hazardous conditions – instead, they will control autonomous devices.
Industrial control – Real-time monitoring and control functions will be applied to control smart grids, and machine vision technologies will become available for robots.

Mobile Automation – Automating the cycle of driving vehicles and mobile robots will ensure the safe maneuvering of multiple remote controlled devices at the same site.
This year, the first IoT platform with support for 5G NR technologies was presented, and commercial modules from different manufacturers are already available. Throughout 2021, a variety of use cases are expected to emerge based on mission-critical IoT connections for personal and commercial vehicles, industrial routers and cameras.

Cloud for games

Currently, 22 out of 106 5G network operators offer cloud-based gaming services that are only available when connected to 5G, both by subscription and as part of a tariff plan. However, 19 of these operators are partnering with cloud gaming companies. Game developers are adapting their applications and services for mobile devices – they have to take into account the small screen size and limited number of ports, as well as the specifics of the environment in which people play on mobile phones. Game lovers are becoming more demanding – for modern multiplayer games, only high data transfer rates are not enough, network latency is also becoming important. In the future, data transmission in 5G networks in a guaranteed period of time with clear latency parameters will allow the creation of new gaming applications with AR / VR technologies and connection to the cloud.