Spirent 5G

Deployments of 5G standalone networks were relatively uncommon in 2023, but are expected to increase this year, according to a forecast from test and assurance equipment provider Spirent. Standalone 5G (SA) networks are not underpinned by previous-generation technology but instead are purpose-built to support 5G service.

As a test equipment provider, Spirent gets an early take on new technology adoption as provider test those technologies. The company’s 5G report is based on analysis of more than 500 new 5G engagements by the company this year.

The company’s “5G 2024: Market Drivers, Insights & Considerations” report picks up on trends from across the 5G ecosystem.

For example, there have only been 51 commercial 5G standalone deployments. However, service providers are preparing “controlled growth deployments and device availability is reaching critical mass,” the report stated.

In the private 5G sector, there are more than 1,200 LTE/5G networks deployed. Spirent said that “pending SA deployments, lifecycle automation and security focused network slices could lead to more than 40,000 rollouts by 2027.”

Open and virtual RAN will be a busy sector, predicts Spirent, with an ecosystem of more than 80 companies (more than 50 on the supply side and 30 service providers on the demand side).

Additionally, work on 5G Advanced, which is defined by 3GPP in Releases 18 and 19, will provide immersive XR applications, expand the role of AI within the network and support other use cases.

“5G Standalone (SA) network deployments saw sluggish growth last year, in part due to the technical challenges of deploying and integrating new, cloud-native 5G Core technologies,” Spirent’s Head of Market Strategy, Steve Douglas, said in a press release

“This year, however, we expect the market to pick up speed. For the first time, the demand for new 5G SA capabilities, and the supply of network equipment and devices to enable them, are finally aligned. Suppliers see a 5G market that’s ready to scale, and demand for next-generation 5G SA capabilities is ramping up.”

Other findings:

  • 5G SA device and handset service experience testing doubled. There was increased focus on the performance and experience of immersive voice and video services. Operators are looking to launch new consumer and enterprise private network offerings.
  • Transport network testing increased. Operators are seeing 4–5 times the traffic and are preparing for 5G SA. Some operators began their 200/400G Ethernet refresh cycles for IP Core backbones, while 5G RAN deployments drove cell site gateway upgrades for 10G/25G edge routers. Operators also moved to 100G at aggregation sites.
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite testing increased “with industry focus on understanding performance capabilities and the technical and regulatory challenges related to delivering direct-to-device 5G services,” the report stated
  • Private 5G testing also increased. Interest in early Release 17 capabilities, including reduced capability (RedCap), grew last year. In addition, commercial private network implementations were delivering ROI in as little as six months “across a targeted set of use cases and a simplified network in a box (NIB) deployment model,” according to the report.

Spirent said that its Landslide 5G core test solution was selected by over 30 operators, which it considers “a strong indicator of commercial 5G SA acceleration in 2024.”

Last August, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) said that more than 20% of the 535 operators worldwide known to be investing in 5G have included public 5G standalone networks in their plans.

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