Emerging markets are not typically early adopters when it comes to new generations of mobile technology, but this is not the case for the 5G era, according to ZTE.
As one of the leading international vendors of network equipment, ZTE has a clear view across the evolving global 5G landscape. At a recent briefing in London, the firm’s President of Global Sales Xiao Ming noted that emerging markets were pushing hard for 5G spectrum to be released early as they saw the opportunities afforded to them by the technology.
Noting that 2020 would be the year for massive rollouts and deployment of 5G, Xiao added that while China and Asia-Pacific had led demand, ZTE is seeing serious increases in Europe, and demand is taking off earlier than expected in the Middle East and Africa.
“This is completely different compared to the previous generations –with 3G and 4G, the industry took a much longer time to build out networks”, he said. He noted that Africa and Latin America used to be followers compared to more developed regions, but that ZTE was now receiving 5G trial requests from the big players in these regions.
“Major carriers in Africa are asking for the same things as their European equivalents, such as South Africa’s MTN. Operators in these regions are actively pushing the local authorities to release 5G spectrum licences earlier, because they see 5G as a potential game-changer in terms of its relevance to less developed regions.”
This could help such areas to catch up – even if they do not necessarily become leaders, they won’t be far behind, and this is a major driver for 5G. Operators are conducting 5G commercial trials utilising temporary spectrum licences in markets such as South Africa and Nigeria; the introduction of the new technology generation is being accelerated.
“We believe they will be almost on the same page as Europe in terms of readiness for 5G commercial network deployment”, said Xiao. “If the authorities decide to release spectrum earlier, then operators will be in a good position to switch their networks – 5G-readiness is embedded as a basic requirement in the current round of RAN modernisation across these regions, and operators such as Vodacom, Airtel and Orange will be ready to switch quickly. In big cities, they have modernised their networks so will be able to handle 5G traffic as long as the licences are ready. A similar thing applies to both Telefonica and America Movil, the two big regional players in Latin America. 5G rollouts are being accelerated even in the traditionally less developed regions.”
Xiao acknowledged that in the past, operators have typically been reluctant to embrace new generations without feeling that they’ve exhausted the value of the previous generation of technology. However, he explained the switch in attitude, saying:
“5G is very different from the previous generations because the services are so unique – it’s a must for carriers to quickly adapt to 5G to handle the next generation traffic. It’s essential to introduce a new layer of radio antennas in order to support the new frequencies, but without the initial efforts such as modernising the radio network, expanding the transport network, and refreshing the core network, you will not be in a position to be 5G-ready. If operators start now, they can be ready for this massive volume of traffic within 18 months – 2 years, hence the enthusiasm for 5G buildouts.”