Worldwide revenue from 5G network infrastructure is expected to grow 39 per cent to $19.1 billion in 2021, up from $13.7 billion in 2020, according to Gartner, Inc.’s latest forecast. In mature markets, communications service providers (CSPs) accelerated 5G development in 2020 and 2021, accounting for 39% of total wireless infrastructure revenue this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic spiked demand for optimised and ultrafast broadband connectivity to support work-from-home and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as streaming video, online gaming and social media applications,” said Michael Porowski, senior principal research analyst at Gartner.
5G is the market segment of wireless network infrastructure that is growing at the fastest rate. The only significant opportunity for investment growth among the segments that comprise wireless infrastructure in this forecast is in 5G. Across all regions, investment in legacy wireless generations is rapidly declining, and spending on non-5G small cells is expected to decline as CSPs transition to 5G small cells.
CSPs in North America are expected to increase 5G revenue from $2.9 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2021, owing in part to increased adoption of dynamic spectrum sharing and millimetre wave base stations. CSPs in Western Europe will focus their efforts on spectrum licencing, modernising mobile core infrastructure, and navigating regulatory processes, with 5G revenue expected to grow from $794 million in 2020 to $1.6 billion in 2021. Greater China is expected to maintain its lead in global 5G revenue, which is expected to reach $9.1 billion in 2021, up from $7.4 billion in 2020.
By 2024, 5G coverage will reach 60% in Tier 1 cities
While 10% of CSPs provided commercially viable 5G services capable of multiregional availability in 2020, Gartner forecasts that this number will increase to 60% by 2024, a rate comparable to that of LTE and 4G adoption in the past.
“Business and customer demand is an influencing factor in this growth. As consumers return to the office, they will continue to upgrade or switch to gigabit fibre to the home (FTTH) service as connectivity has become an essential remote work service,” said Porowski. “Users will also increasingly scrutinize CSPs for both office and remote work needs.”
This rapid change in consumer behaviour is propelling the global passive optical network (PON) market as a preferred technology. The 10-Gigabit symmetric-PON (XGS-PON) technology is not new, and as the price differential between XGS-PON and other technologies narrows, CSPs are willing to invest in XGS-PON to differentiate their customer experience and network quality.
By 2025, Gartner estimates that 60% of Tier-1 CSPs will deploy XGS-PON technology on a large scale to deliver ultrafast broadband services to residential and business customers, up from less than 30% in 2020.
Worldwide Wireless Network Infrastructure Revenue Forecast
|Segment||2020 Revenue||2021 Revenue||2022 Revenue|
|LTE and 4G||17,127.8||14,569.1||12,114.0|
|3G and 2G||3,159.6||1,948.2||1,095.2|
|Small Cells Non-5G||6,588.5||7,117.9||7,113.9|
Source: Gartner (August 2021)