2019 Telecom Predictions: 5G will be an evolution, not a revolution

The first few years of the 5G era will be underwhelming, but the future looks brighter for the telecom industry, especially as Industry 4.0 gains steam

The telecom industry entered a brave new world with the inception of 5G in 2018. Stakeholders industrywide are hoping this newest network generation will provide much needed revenue growth after the prior network generation, 4G, fell short of this goal over the past decade. Stakeholders hope 5G enables Industry 4.0, which will spur revenue generation opportunities for service providers that provide the connectivity layer and value-added services to businesses.

Though TBR agrees Industry 4.0 will ultimately take hold, our research suggests the cycle will start later and take longer to play out than many expect. TBR expects 5G to drive a renaissance in new commercially viable use cases for the network between 2022 and 2025, which will be beneficial in the long run but makes the next few years a continuation of the same challenges the industry has been dealing with, namely a lack of growth prospects and additional margin pressure.

In the interim, communication service providers (CSPs) will focus on cost optimization and will allocate their initial 5G investments to enhancing their traditional connectivity businesses to more cost-effectively support the ever-increasing amount of data traffic coming onto their networks. This cost optimization mindset, coupled with digital transformation ambitions, will lead to an acceleration in spend on NFV/SDN-related initiatives as well as 5G access build-outs, particularly in lead countries.

2019 Predictions

  • CSPs justify initial 5G investments for their cost efficiency attributes
  • CSPs accelerate network transformation endeavors
  • Wireless begins to disrupt the traditional fixed access business model

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