How are telcos preparing for 5G?
The 5G evolution is expected to begin in the next couple of years, and while telcos are optimistic about the future, they are also aware of the energy and connectivity challenges ahead. Research from Vertiv and technology analyst firm 451 Research looked at how global telecom operators are preparing for the transition, particularly which enabling technologies and services will affect their 5G success.
A survey of more than 100 global telecom decision-makers with visibility into 5G and edge strategies and plans found 70% of participants were overwhelmingly optimistic about the 5G business outlook.
While only 12% of operators expect to roll out 5G services in 2019, 86% expect to be delivering 5G services by 2021. These initial 5G services will be focused on supporting existing data services.
As networks continue to evolve and coverage expands, 5G itself will become a key enabler of emerging edge use cases that require high-bandwidth, low-latency data transmission, such as virtual and augmented reality, digital health care and smart homes, buildings, factories and cities. However, the majority of respondents (68%) stated they do not expect to achieve total 5G coverage until 2028 or later.
“In Asia, operators are optimistic that they are ready to deploy 5G in the next few years. But with the growing reality comes a new set of challenges including increasing energy consumption, existing infrastructure readiness and visibility as well as manageability of sites,” said Danny Wong, Senior Director for Telecoms at Vertiv Asia. “There is all the more a pressing need for telecom operators to identify and utilise energy-efficient and innovative power and thermal solutions to make 5G a reality.”
The report found telcos are ramping up the deployment of multi-access edge computing (MEC) sites to support 5G services, with 37% already deploying MEC infrastructure ahead of 5G deployments and an additional 47% intending to deploy MECs.
Site acquisition, rights of way and high-quality connectivity were identified as the most critical technical enablers for 5G success.
In terms of remote management, data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) was identified as the most important enabler (55%), followed by energy management (49%). Remote management will be critical, as the report suggests the network densification required for 5G could require operators to double the number of radio access locations around the globe in the next 10–15 years.
Almost all respondents (94%) said they expect network energy consumption to increase with 5G deployments. The survey asked them to identify their plans for dealing with energy issues over the next five years and found three main focuses: reducing AC to DC conversions, new cooling techniques and upgrading batteries to lithium-ion.
“5G represents the most impactful and difficult network upgrade ever faced by the telecom industry,” said Brian Partridge, Research Vice President for 451 Research. “In general, the industry recognises the scale of this challenge and the need for enabling technologies and services to help it maintain profitability by more efficiently managing increasingly distributed networks and mitigating the impact of higher energy costs.”
The report can be accessed here.
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