November 3, 2021

5G are we there yet?

The last 12 months have seen a tangible leap forward in the state of real-world 5G deployments with operators around the world beginning to offer 5G services to customers. However, as some in the industry begin to discuss the shape of 6G, Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing and Transformation Director at RFS shares his views on whether it’s too soon to talk 6G and how far we really are down the road to 5G maturity.

Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing Director

Let’s start with 5G, how has this generation of wireless technology developed over the past 12 months?

We have seen a huge step forward in operators rolling out 5G networks. To look at the market in terms of numbers, as of mid-2021, more than 170 operators had launched commercial 5G services. Although this is a positive move with operators expanding the coverage and capacity they are able to deliver, it is far from a mature market at the moment. The last 12 months have seen operators build a blueprint for how 5G networks will look, and they now need to scale that up to deliver a commercial offering that is able to deliver on the promises of 5G and drive ROI for operators themselves. 

What are some of the big obstacles still facing operators as the look to deliver full 5G coverage?

There are some significant challenges facing operators as they look to scale 5G. Rolling out a new generation of wireless is a CAPEX intensive process and so it is vital to ensure that the equipment being installed is futureproof and robust to protect the investments that are currently being made. For us as a designer of wireless infrastructure, we have to look to deliver this in our equipment as well as addressing additional challenges facing our operator customers. For example, we ensure that our solutions are operator agnostic and can lend themselves to infrastructure sharing which has the potential to significantly reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs for operators. 

Staying on top of industry trends is a key focus for our product teams to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers. We are a 121-year-old company that is tackling 5G with the mentality of a newer disruptive player. It may make us the oldest new kid on the block, but the ability to adapt to trends such as Open RAN and infrastructure sharing and apply years of experience to a thriving R&D team gives our customers the best of both worlds. 

In terms of 6G, is it too soon to be discussing the technology?

I think that depends. For those that are looking to define the standards of 6G and how it will differ from 5G it is about the right time to be beginning those conversations. However, as a designer of wireless equipment, our job has to be to finish what has been started with 5G and provide the infrastructure to see this fully rolled out. 6G will be a complementary technology to 5G rather than replacement, so ensuring a comprehensive 5G network is a real priority for operators across the globe.  

That said there are elements of our 5G technology development that will have a direct use in a 6G world. Take for example our microwave backhaul solutions. It is never going to be practical to roll out the fiber network that will support the coverage and capacity needed for the future generations of wireless and so microwave is fast proving a viable and cost-effective alternative. We expect the technologies that we are rolling out to support 5G today will form the backbone of 6G backhaul in the future. 

As we head towards the end of the year, what do you think will be the focus of the industry in 2022?

2022, without question, will be the year of expansion for 5G. We expect to see coverage and capacity extend to ensure that 5G is able to deliver on the applications that it has promised with 5G supported IoT applications being a big focus as not only operators, but also private/enterprise sectors look to see initial ROI on their investments. For us at RFS, we know that in order for 5G to live up to the hype and deliver on expectations, operators have to get the hardware right. A big focus of next year will be working with our partners and customers to deliver the infrastructure needed to support a successful evolution to 5G.  

If you would like to hear more about how RFS is helping operators across the world achieve their 5G objectives, please get in touch with Peter Raabe, Strategic Marketing and Transformation Director at RFS