Even though 5G networks are barely out of their early adopter stage and into the mainstream, the industry is eyeing the next generation of the mobile infrastructure, 5G-Advanced. A study from ABI Research predicts that after coming into commercial availability life in 2025, 5G-Advanced will grow so quickly that by 2030, 75% of mobile base stations will be upgraded to support the new standard.
Mobile standards body 3GPP approved the Release-18 package in December 2021, making the official start of 5G-Advanced, with the planned freeze date in December 2023.
As noted in ABI’s 5G-Advanced and the road to 6G study, 5G-Advanced is designed to bring continuous enhancements in mobile network capabilities and use case-based support to help mobile operators with 5G commercialisation, long-term development of artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), and network energy savings for a fully automated network and a sustainable future.
It will support applications such as extended reality (XR) and promises monetary opportunities to both the consumer markets, with use cases such as gaming and video streaming, as well as enterprise opportunities such as remote working and virtual training. Compared with previous mobile generations, 5G-Advanced creates an ecosystem for vertical markets and ongoing development in this area will continue to bring improvements on traffic throughputs, network coverage, power saving and anomaly detection.
Gu Zhang, 5G and mobile network infrastructure principal analyst at ABI Research, said: “XR applications are a major focus of 3GPP working groups to significantly improve XR-specific traffic performance and power consumption for mass-market adoption. Another noticeable feature is AI/ML, which will become essential for future networks given the predicted rapid growth in 5G network usage and use case complexities that can’t be managed by legacy optimisation approaches with presumed models. System-level network energy saving is also a critical aspect as operators need to reduce the deployment cost but assure network performance for various use cases.”
Compared with previous mobile generations, 5G-Advanced creates an ecosystem for vertical markets and ongoing development in this area will continue to bring improvements in traffic throughputs, network coverage, power saving and anomaly detection.
The upgrade of 5G network infrastructure is expected to be faster in consumer markets than for enterprise applications. ABI Research forecasts that although 75% of all 5G base stations will be upgraded to 5G-Advanced, in the enterprise market, the ratio is about half. The analyst also expects 5G-Advanced devices per radio base station to quickly gain traction around 2024 to 2026 at the early stage of the commercial launch because devices will grow more aggressively than network deployments over that period.
“The commercial launch of 5G-Advanced will take two or three years, but the competition has already started,” said Zhang. “Taking AI/ML development as an example, industrial leaders such as Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, ZTE and Qualcomm have trialled their solutions with mobile operators across the world. Ongoing development in this area will continue to bring improvements in traffic throughputs, network coverage, power saving, anomaly detection, etc.”