Despite not actually being an official mobile standard yet, ABI Research has gone out on a limb to suggest that 5G will take more than five years to reach 100 million connections, two years more than it took 4G, which grew faster than previous generations.
The research firm put 4G technology’s growth down to its capabilities of increasingly powerful smartphones and the availability of 4G devices, and predicts that 5G growth will “be a bit more muted at first due to the increased complexity of cells and networks, but will pick up in 2023.”
According to research director Philip Solis, the US, China, Japan, South Korea and the UK will drive 5G subscriber volumes because they are early builders of 5G networks and have a large population living in urban areas.
The report also says that it is important to understand the nuances around 5G to understand where it is headed.
“5G will be a spectrum of evolution to revolution—it will be an evolution of the way the core network and network topology is transforming now, but it will be clearly delineated as a fifth generation mobile air interface on which the mobile network of the 2020s and 2030s will be built,” Solis explained.
According to the study, 5G will encompass spatial division as the foundation of the air interface, leveraging techniques like massive MIMO and 3D beamforming.
Client devices will have links to multiple cells simultaneously for robust connectivity. Spectrum will be used flexibly and shift as needed between access and fronthaul and backhaul.
A 5G network will be made up of small cells but the report says to expect a scaled down version to use existing spectrum for macrocells as well as in the longer term. One problem, however, could be regulatory issues concerning concentrated RF beams in centimeter and millimeter wave spectrum, the report notes.