Futuresource analyst Simon Forest explains where, how and why 5G is developing, and what we can expect in the years to come

The roll out of 5G services is accelerating, as operators worldwide switch on their 5G networks. We asked Simon Forest, Principal Technology, Analyst, Futuresource, back at IFA again this year, what he sees as being the key trends.

South Korea is among the first to launch commercial 5G services, with three major operators sharing the cost of infrastructure. Verizon and AT&T were early to launch 5G in the USA, albeit using different strategies. Meantime, Finland was one of the first countries in Europe and, today, others, including the UK, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany now have 5G services on air. The Netherlands, France and Portugal will be among the next countries. In Australia, Telstra has switched on over 200 5G sites. China Mobile announced plans to build 10,000 5G hotspots across major cities by 2020.


In terms of smartphone availability, Huawei, Samsung, OnePlus, LG, Xiaomi, OPPO and ZTE all launched their first 5G-capable devices earlier in the year. As anticipated, these are high-value flagship products intended to maximise Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) revenues as early-adopters make the switch. 5G portfolios will grow as more OEMs launch devices and competition increases. Futuresource forecasts that around 9 million 5G-capable smartphones will ship in 2019, rising to over 800 million in 2023, given the added benefit of launching into a much larger market.

What will be the key advantages of 5G networks?

The most notable advantage is the high bandwidths available on 5G networks, with peak data rates of 10Gbit/s locally and broad coverage in hundreds of megabits per second over wider areas. Network capacity is massively improved, with the rise in the number of simultaneously connected devices per cell tower widely quoted as up to 100x what is possible using 4G. This means guaranteed connectivity, especially important for industrial applications such as transport infrastructure, logistics, smart city initiatives and IoT. End-to- end latency is also reduced, and it’s this that most users will notice because of near-instantaneous response. Essentially this brings the cloud and edge devices into closer interlock, extending the utility of mobile networks into real- time commercial and industrial applications.

What can we expect to see at IFA this year?

5G will feature during IFA, as OEMs begin to consider how they can deploy mobile connectivity across their product portfolios. Given the dual advantages of high-bandwidth with low latency on 5G networks, expect to see the balance between edge and cloud compute change quite markedly, notably across products and services that harness machine learning and AI. New applications will likely open up in AR and VR, drones with 5G connectivity, and possible a showcase in development of new categories of products, such as Hearables, which promise to utilise 5G for connectivity and open up new applications such as “Audible AR”.

10 Gbit/s 5G networks will have peak data rates of 10 Gbit/s locally

100x The number of simultaneously connected devices per cell tower is widely quoted as up to 100x what is possible using 4G

800million 5G users are forecasted by 2023

Photo: Simon Forest, Principal Technology, Analyst, Futuresource