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Global 5G market set for 3.2 billion connections by 2026

Study suggests that as network orchestration tools maximise monetisation, next-generation infrastructures will grow at a staggering rate of 940% over the next five years

The comms market segment has faced some formidable gating factors over the past two years, notably the Covid pandemic and the lack of affordable handsets, especially in the major economies, but a study from Juniper Research is predicting that the total number of 5G connections worldwide will soar from 310 million in 2021 to reach 3.2 billion five years later.

The study, 5G monetisation: Business models, strategic recommendations and market forecasts 2021-2026, found that over 60% of global 5G connections will be located in the Asia Pacific region by 2026. Network orchestration technologies, alongside mmWave frequencies that enable data-intensive 5G services, will be a key driver in creating an ecosystem in this region that allows mobile subscribers to leverage 5G networks for emerging mobile services, while maintaining network performance.

“Operators in China, Japan and South Korea have all implemented lower subscription costs, which have accelerated 5G adoption, thus enabling these subscribers to explore novel services that require 5G connectivity,” said report co-author Dave Bowie.

By 2026, the report predicted that the average revenue per 5G smartphone connection will fall to $17 globally, from $29 in 2021, significantly impacting operator revenue. To alleviate this decline, the report identified automating network orchestration tools as a key priority for operators in monetising their 5G services.

These tools allow operators to adapt network conditions based on artificial intelligence analysis of traffic, providing more bandwidth to connections that need it and maintain service performance.

Indeed, Juniper recommended that operators take advantage of orchestration tools to retain a network’s highest throughput and lowest latency for connections that require it. It said that by utilising this approach, operators can justify charging a premium to these prioritised connections over other 5G connections and slow this declining average revenue.

To maximise the monetisation of this significant growth in 5G connections, Juniper predicts that operators will accelerate investment into standalone 5G networks to best position their services to manage future capacity.

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The analyst noted that standalone 5G networks leverage next-generation technologies, such as network orchestration tools, to enable operators to monetise data-intensive use cases, like remote healthcare and mobile gaming.

Great strides are being made in the fields of standalone 5G. Just days ago, Nokia and Taiwan Mobile claimed the first 5G carrier aggregation call in standalone architecture as part of the operator’s strategy to ramp up services based on its growing next-generation architecture.

Taiwan Mobile said the tests it carried out with the leading comms tech firm achieved the world’s first New Radio Carrier Aggregation by combining spectrum in the 700MHz (n28) and 3500MHz (n78) spectrum bands.

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