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5G has already taken off, but needs to be consolidated


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5G networks have been deployed extraordinarily quickly this year that is now ending, especially in China and South Korea, but the most important thing is still missing. From the outset, the new base stations must be connected with 5G backbones to take advantage of the new mobile technology and not like now, which almost all link to 4G networks. A sustainable economic model must also be found, because everything indicates that it will not be achieved with the planned 5G consumer applications and it is feared that the development of business applications, which would justify and make the deployment of 5G networks profitable, will take longer than provided.

Achieving a successful solution for the full deployment of 5G networks during 2021 and the next few years is a huge task. Purely technical issues, such as the development of Release 17 within 3GPP, are continuing, although their full approval has just been postponed to mid-2022, due to the impossibility of holding face-to-face meetings until the summer of 2021. And regulatory issues, such as the shortage of mid-band radio waves, dramatic so far in the United States, are in the process of being resolved with the approval of new multi-million dollar license auctions.

During 2021, the 5G link networks with the transport and trunk networks will begin to be interconnected through SA 5G, giving way to real 5G technology and all its advantages

The main problem, which largely affects the development of 5G, is political in nature and one of technological and commercial supremacy between the United States and China, to which has now been added the European requirement to have full digital sovereignty and privacy from Internet giants, with the passage of very ambitious bills last week. These are issues that have been discussed for years, but in 2020 they have been extraordinarily complicated with the United States’ veto to sell chips to Huawei, with no sign that it will be fixed with the new presidency. The Chinese government has so far adopted a cautious attitude, but has made it clear that it will not tolerate it.

Escalating tension between the United States and China

The positions between the United States and China seem to have been castled in recent days, with decisions by the outgoing US Administration that increase the tension, such as adding among others SIMC, the main Chinese chip manufacturer, and DIJ, the world’s main supplier of drones. , including the US military, to the list that prohibits US companies from selling semiconductors. Precisely this weekend it became known that the high security facilities in the United States have received, for months or perhaps years, a massive cyber attack and access to supposedly inviolable files. The head of National Security of the White House, Robert O’Brien, in a joint statement with the FBI, has acknowledged that the attack is significant and may still be underway, without being clear about its scope.

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and who has distinguished himself during 2020 in directly accusing Huawei of espionage on behalf of the Chinese Government, assures that everything points to the cyber attack coming from Russia, an extreme that the Kremlin has been quick to deny. Nor is Trump convinced that it was the Russians, but at least the first glances at the Chinese have been avoided. In view of the poor security offered by telecommunications networks, it will be difficult for the new

It is expected that, when the MWC in Barcelona starts on June 28, the situation of the pandemic will be more under control and the future of 5G and the social and economic crisis can be faced with greater optimism

The United States administration will continue to accuse Huawei of espionage, or the possibility of espionage, without evidence, and to justify the maintenance of the sanctions imposed in July and September, which prohibit third companies, such as the Taiwanese TSMC, from selling chips to Huawei. As has happened to high security facilities in the United States, it is clear that complete security does not exist and that arguing the mere possibility that it could be done to ban is absurd.

Last week it was also learned that Germany is about to pass a very strict telecommunications security law, without explicitly mentioning any supplier of telecommunications equipment. It will be an advisory council that will study whether the networks offer the desired level of security, although it will be the Government, and ultimately Chancellor Angela Merkel or her successor, who will have the final decision. Everything indicates that the Spanish Government will adopt a measure similar to the German one, with a security law and without an express ban on Huawei equipment. France, for its part, will probably continue its ambiguous attitude.

Huawei will set up a factory in northeast France

Huawei, meanwhile, has just decided that it will install its first European telecommunications equipment factory in the northeast of France, in Brumath, 17 km from Strasbourg and near the German and Belgian border and surrounded by 23 research centers. The planned initial investment is 200 million euros, with the creation of 300 jobs and 500 in the long term. The estimated annual turnover is 1,000 million euros in mobile network technology solutions. Huawei’s announcement is clearly focused on trying to make the European Union more flexible in its position regarding its telecommunications equipment, at a time when an ambitious trade agreement between China and the European Union is about to be concluded, where the Bilateral technology supply between the two countries plays a key role.

In the coming weeks, as Huawei runs out of its strategic components and if the United States, already under the presidency of Joe Biden, continues with its firm position to veto Huawei and other Chinese companies, it is foreseeable that the trade tension between both countries while there is a rapprochement between the European Union and China and between the latter and Japan, which is also eager to enter the Chinese market. 5G networks, therefore, will remain at the center of this dispute between the United States and China, although their actual incidence is relatively minor compared to the magnitude of what is at stake.

There are already experts who warn of the danger that the escalation of tension between China and the United States will end up fragmenting the Internet and, ultimately, the 5G networks, because we must not forget that China controls a large part of the 3GPP, the body that establishes the standards mobile telephony worlds, through its numerous delegates from Huawei and ZTE, along with those from Ericsson and Nokia. China already has, in fact, an Internet of its own, with very restricted access to the American Internet giants. If the pace of escalation continues as in recent months, global telecommunications may become a chimera in the medium term.

China will continue to dominate 5G rollout in 2021

At the moment, China already overwhelmingly leads the world’s 5G networks. China is slated to install about 800,000 5G base stations in 2020 and install another million in 2021. Currently, there are about 175 million 5G connections in China compared to 2020 million worldwide, according to the recent report Ericsson. There are barely six million 5G subscribers across Europe and in Korea of the South almost twelve million, which is the country with the highest proportion of 5G subscriptions compared to total mobiles, about 16%. The rest of the world does not reach 25 million subscriptions, including the United States, Canada and Japan.

Throughout 2021, China will maintain the abysmal distance in 5G with respect to the rest of the world, but its difference will be shortened by having a lower relative growth. It will be from 2022 and especially 2024 when the 5G subscriptions between the United States, China and the entire European continent will begin to level. The most notable event of 2021 will be, however, that the SA 5G networks will begin to be deployed with force, compared to the current NSA 5G. That is, radio stations will communicate with transport networks and backbones through 5G, while now transport is done with 4G.

Seen in perspective, it is likely that the decision in early 2019 to advance the deployment of 5G networks with the NSA mode was not the most successful, because it has frustrated many of the expectations placed on consumers by not producing a large increase in the speed and latency similar to 4G. Even in South Korea, after more than a year and a half of operation of the 5G NSA networks, the speed is about 400 megabits per second. More than the promised revolution, 5G is seen for now as an evolution of 4G. Expect that within a year or so, with SA 5G networks widespread in areas with coverage in the 3.5 GHz band, the speed will be much higher than Enhanced 4G and the latency much lower. In areas with bands from 700 to 1,800 MHz, a large increase in speed is not expected, but coverage will be very high and also the quality of service and possibilities with 5G networks.

MWC Shanghai, in two months

During the next February 23 to 25, you will have the opportunity to see the progress made in 5G, with the celebration of MWC Shanghai 2021, which has exchanged dates with MWC 2021 in Barcelona, ​​which will take place from June 28 to June 1. July. At the MWC at the end of February the main accent will be on the deployment of 5G in Asia, and more specifically in China, while at the end of June the emphasis will be much more global, as in the previous occasions that it has been held in Barcelona and that it had to be canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. A pandemic that has also affected the planned deployment of 5G, although it has catapulted the use of fixed broadband communications for obvious reasons of confinement. It is trusted that by MWC 2021, in Barcelona, ​​the pandemic will already be largely controlled and the future can be faced with greater optimism, not only on the 5G issue but also on the social and economic situation in general.

A problem that will remain latent, difficult to solve especially in Europe, is the difficulty that operators are expected to have in amortizing the investments necessary for the deployment of 5G. The high competition in the different European countries causes a drop in the prices of broadband and mobile services, without the progressive deployment of 5G allowing to increase the prices of this new mobile technology, because the consumer in general does not see, at the moment, the need to change. It will be at the end of 2021, with the appearance of more 5G business applications and the launch of private networks, when it is expected that there will be more dynamism. Overcoming the pandemic will also instill new spirits among consumers.

Another latent issue that must be addressed urgently is the reduction of energy consumption in large data centers and 4G and 5G fixed and mobile networks. Data traffic through fixed and mobile networks will continue to increase exponentially in the coming years, which will require drastic measures to be taken to limit its energy consumption, both in absolute and relative figures, in proportion to the volume of data. Last Friday, a report requested by the French Senate to the High Council for the Climate (HCC),  an independent government commission, warned that the implementation of 5G will increase CO2 emissions from 18 to 44% and an important increase in electricity consumption, evaluated between 16 and 40TW only in France in 2030.

The operators have quickly refuted the report, arguing that 5G consumes much less energy than 4G and that the implementation of 5G will cause an energy reduction of many other services and mobility, as is already happening with teleworking, that the report does not takes into account. It must be recognized, however, that climate change is more than a threat to subsequent generations and drastic measures must be taken to reduce global energy consumption. 5G can contribute to alleviating the energy problem in the medium term, but everything indicates that in the next two or three years, as long as the technology does not mature, energy consumption with 4G and 5G networks will continue to increase, to later be reduced in relative terms. The tasks to be carried out in 2021 and years to come, in 5G technology and the rest, because everything is related, are immense and urgent.