5G is poised to radically change how people and devices connect. Its high capacity (1Gb per second download speeds), low latency (<1 millisecond), and massive connectivity implications could spark innovation around IoT use cases, drive global connectivity, and could ultimately help economic growth.
In this series, I will be exploring 5G cellular technology and what are the developments ahead.
As countries around the world start rolling out 5G fixed wireless networks (Note: You can track 5G rollouts in cities across the globe here at https://www.speedtest.net/ookla-5g-map), we expect many companies in our universe to be involved with 5G commercial deployments from a technology and product point of view.
Worldwide 5G network infrastructure spending is expected to almost double this year according to Gartner ( https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/gartner-says-worldwide-5g-network-infrastructure-spending-to-almost-double-in-2020).
The demand for fast, reliable and fixed access to the Internet has pushed into the market fixed wireless access (FWA), the latest in wireless network technologies. The biggest advantage of the technology is its cost-effectiveness, which makes it easily penetrable even in rural areas across the world, thus narrowing the vast digital divide created by accessibility options before.
Telecom operators and network service providers are putting significant effort into making the technology accessible everywhere. The race to monetize the new technology, especially after the repeal of Net Neutrality should drive up the commercial rollout pace worldwide.
For the first post of this series, I will start by discussing on the networking companies involved in 5G technology developments.
Commscope (NASDAQ:COMM): Providing the Wired and Wireless Foundation for 5G
Commscope (NASDAQ:COMM) is a US company that has broad exposure to both wired and wireless service provider networks.
For now, the focus is on two key areas related to 5G: its fiber portfolio and its wireless position. To be specific, Commscope specializes in antennas, distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cell and radio frequency products. They are also involved in connectivity and cabling, all of which enable carrier densification efforts as they add capacity in higher frequencies for 5G.
To support the surge of 5G rollouts around the world, Commscope has pushed out several antenna solutions, connectors and power options to make it simpler and faster for wireless operators to build their networks. In 2018, Commscope announced a collaboration with Nokia on a new massive MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) antenna, as well as supporting infrastructure that will enable this wireless capacity addition. 5G antennas will be designed with enhanced features such as beamforming and massive MIMO, new innovations that likely require some radio functionality built into the antenna.
Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO): Helping Carriers Move to Cloud-native Architecture
Cisco’s (NASDAQ:CSCO) always has strong relationships with traditional wireless Service Providers. This allows the company to play a significant technology role in 5G. 5G wireless networks depend on a robust wireline foundation, and Cisco’s IP Routing Optical Networking, and Switching portfolios play an important role for many carriers.
Cisco has launched its ‘5G Now’ portfolio to help carriers prepare for new
Cisco-enabled services such as Jasper IoT analytics and Kinetic support for Fog
Cisco’s traditional IP Routing and Optical products also support 5G efforts like network slicing and cloud RAN. For example, Jio in India is Cisco’s most notable
partner to build a future-proof 5G-ready core network.
Lastly, Cisco also launched the world’s first fully automated virtualized RAN deployment initiative which will help increase business agility with network elasticity, flexibility, and dynamic RAN optimization. This is part of Cisco’s broad effort to help carriers move toward a more ‘cloud-native’ network architecture.
Ciena (NYSE:CIEN) – Providing fiber and DCI solutions for carriers
Ciena (NYSE:CIEN) solutions are enabling the deep fiber push taking place among carriers with the vendor’s extensive optical portfolio. Ciena has its own 5G Network Solution to help carriers scale and virtualize their networks as well as build out their edge cloud capabilities.
Ciena’s solutions can also be leveraged for network slicing, one of the key technologies born from 5G capabilities. The 5G Network Solution’s connectivity aspects, including its Packet Optical IP functionality, will enable slicing automation, while Blue Planet should provide visibility into each network slice’s performance, capacity, provisioning, and
network connectivity status.
The vendor’s high-capacity Waveserver DCI should also assist with the rise of Edge and Fog computing, as the solution can support metro, regional, and long-haul applications.
Amdocs Limited (NASDAQ:DOX) – Solution Provider to Help Carriers Monetize New Technologies
Amdocs (NASDAQ:DOX) is positioning its solutions to help carriers monetize services such as connected cars, virtual reality and augmented reality, smart homes, and additional use cases enabled by 5G network slicing capabilities.
With the flexibility of network slicing comes flexibility of pricing packages and bundling options for operators. This will be optimized by type of consumer and monetization goals.
The company’s Digital Monetization solution simplifies the monetization of network slicing by displaying data usage, traffic activity, throttling options, and charging basis across individual slices per customer. This helps carriers navigate issues surrounding monetization of new 5G technologies.
Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) Radio Equipment that Enables 4G and 5G Interworking
Ericsson is a radio market leader in 5G technology. Their AIR 6468 was the first
5G NR-capable radio. The radio incorporates 64 transmit and receive antennas, enabling massive MIMO capabilities, which are a cornerstone feature of 5G.
Presently, all Ericsson radios are now 5G-capable radios, requiring a simple remote software update for 5G compatibility. Ericsson’s Radio System Software enables centralized network management from a unified orchestration and management system across 5G, LTE (FDD & TDD), WCDMA, and GSM standards.
Because the transition from 4G LTE to 5G will be gradual, ease of convertibility from 4G to 5G and unified management increase ease of usage as mobile network operators look to build out their networks on top of or in tandem with existing 4G LTE infrastructures.
As of 2Q 2020, Ericsson has 99 commercial 5G agreements or contracts, providing networking equipment for the carrier’s 5G core and RAN systems. They are also running 54 live networks. This shows their leadership position in 5G today.
Nokia (NYSE:NOK) – End-to-End 5G Equipment Portfolio Will Help Transform Networks
Formerly known as the maker of the world’s first indestructible phone, Nokia’s emerged as a leader in 5G technology. Its end-to-end portfolio includes radio access, IP routing, and optical networking for 5G buildouts.
Given the evolution from 4G LTE to 5G is a complete network transformation, Nokia’s portfolio provides mobile network operators with tighter integration versus a multi-vendor approach. An integrated solution provides faster time to market, as well as a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), which carriers have begun to prioritize, pressuring supply chains to drive down TCOs.
With the rise of Edge Computing, the company’s Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) platform can process content at the edge of mobile networks for ultra-low latency. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) for industrial maintenance will make such demands on edge computing architecture.
Additionally, backhaul capacity needs to be increased to handle incremental IoT traffic on top of customer traffic growth, and Nokia’s new FP4 routing processor and 400G coherent optical offerings are important pieces in the company’s backhaul solution.
Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) – Building The Cloud-Centric Architecture of 5G
More than other incumbent networking vendors, Juniper(NYSE:JNPR) has aggressively pursued software/hardware disaggregation, a requirement of service providers as they move to 5G and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization).
Juniper Networks Cloud CPE revolutionizes traditional managed services, overcoming the challenges associated with service deployment, management, and evolution. This is achieved by simplifying and automating the creation and delivery of customizable services from a comprehensive, vertically integrated, open NFV solution.
The company’s routing solutions, particularly its fixed form factor core PTX solution, have seen strong adoption among the leading cloud providers.
Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Pioneer of prior cellular generations is back for 5G
Qualcomm has been an important player in 5G development, due to its exposure to 5G Standard Essential Patents, its working with 3GPP to create 5G specifications, and exposure to the associated smartphone upgrade cycle, developing the industry’s first 5G chipset, the Snapdragon X50.
Early this year, Qualcomm has entered into an agreement with Samsung for manufacturing affordable 5G chipsets. The first batch of 5G Snapdragon chipsets are expected to deliver in 2021.
Specifically on Qualcomm’s licensing efforts, Qualcomm has actively submitted and been rewarded Standard Essential Patents related to iterative technologies, MIMO antennas, carrier aggregation, LTE in unlicensed spectrum, LTE for machine-to-machine communication, LTE broadcast, and narrowband Internet of Things support.
As a follow up, Qualcomm entered into a long-term, global patent license agreement with the world’s largest smartphone brand Huawei. The company now has multi-year licensing deals with every major smartphone maker.