Spirent Communications has released its annual 5G Outlook Report, based on analysis and takeaways from over 800 new global 5G engagements in 2022. The “5G 2023: Market Drivers, Insights & Considerations” report provides insights from across the 5G ecosystem on the current status of 5G, revealing trends, technology advancements and revenue-generating use cases.

Commenting on the report, Steve Douglas, head, Market Strategy, Spirent, said, “To capitalise on new 5G revenue and counter inflationary and energy pressures, service providers must discover the new applications and services customers are willing to buy at a premium and deliver competitive performance levels. Success hinges on many factors and Spirent plays a key role in how customers unlock new revenue streams while improving productivity, capital efficiency and energy management. We understand our customers need to be not just market-ready, but monetisation-ready and we partner with them in pursuit of these goals.”

The most promising 5G network applications, services and use cases ready for profit include the following:

  • Fixed wireless access (FWA) range and competitive speeds doubled in just 12 months with throughputs reaching upwards of 900Mbps on mmWave and ranges beyond 2km.
  • Mobile gaming success zeroed in on key performance indictors (KPIs) that relate to user perception and acceptable tolerances.
  • Multi-access edge computing (MEC) performance with cloud providers demonstrated less than 20ms latencies but guaranteeing consistency is a work in progress.
  • Voice over new radio (VoNR) on 5G standalone is getting ready for prime time with mean opinion scores (MOS) beating voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE), demonstrating the potential for future immersive collaboration services.
  • Private networks are moving forward as stakeholders recognise the need for a simple set of understandable service level agreements (SLAs), performance and site acceptance metrics that will drive enterprise IT/OT/security team investments.

Spirent’s more than 2,600 5G engagements to date afford the company a unique, broad-based view of the industry’s global 5G pursuit, from which a number of dominant themes emerge, including:

  • There is no single path to revenue that most service providers will follow, but a combination of incremental growth services and efficiency programs.
  • Collaborative ecosystems are growing to accelerate innovation and de-risk investments.
  • The introduction of the 5G core combined with OSS modernisation is challenging but critical to realise new revenues and capital efficiencies.
  • 5G is triggering digital transformation programs as service providers embrace network lifecycle automation (DevOps, AIOps) with test and assurance methodologies at the core.
  • Energy efficiency is becoming a greater priority and market differentiator.

The report also notes key trends that Spirent is watching – areas where 5G is showing the most progress and promise, such as:

  • 5G core on the way, but commercial deployments will be gradual – Cloud-native complexity, multivendor network function integration, assuring high-performance services over disaggregated stacks, security risks and spectrum portfolio migrations demand multi-phase testing. Spirent expects more than 100 5G Core deployments by 2024 and until then, progress will happen steadily behind the scenes.
  • Simpler, lower-cost operating environments for automation everywhere – Network lifecycle automation combined with continuous integration (CI)/continuous delivery (CD)/continuous testing (CR) frameworks and tooling provide a path to streamlined, lower-cost operations, acting as a hedge against 5G complexity headwinds.
  • Two clouds, two different purposes – With some exceptions, service provider cloud strategies are gravitating towards telco cloud for network functions and public cloud for IT workloads and edge computing. The call for multi-cloud support is growing louder and service providers need to be all clouds to all customers.
  • Private networks prep for a productive year – The market is starting to materialise with the commercial deployment of over 520 private mobile networks between 2021 and 2022. Common use cases emerging include opportunities for better visualisation for enterprise assets, where large sensor networks feed analytics, and high-definition video monitoring and surveillance where corresponding actions are automated.
  • Automation for sustainability – 5G brings larger network densification, bigger antenna arrays and outsized energy demands. Some equipment runs around the clock but is only needed 30 per cent of the time. Energy efficiency initiatives include automation, new radio sleep mode capabilities, liquid cooling advancements and increased reliance on renewables like solar.
  • Homework for open radio access network (RAN) – Spirent estimates a 10x complexity increase for open RAN testing and system integration. Issues including technology maturity, performance and feature gaps as well as plug-and-play interoperability headaches illustrate there’s a lot of hard work to be done.