This year, 5G was supposed to grow to new heights after telecoms and device makers spent the better part of 2019 deploying networks to cities across the globe. Then the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic happened, and everything changed.
Now, ABI Research predicts that the disruptions caused by COVID-19 will result in a 5G network infrastructure revenue decline of as much as 10% of the forecasted $2.1 billion in 2020.
“The current virus outbreak will likely delay the deployment of advanced 5G NR systems, including Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) and active antennas that several operators have already started deploying,” said Jiancao Hou, senior analyst at ABI Research.
The decline will come as a result of 5G networks still relying on Tier One infrastructure vendors and their supply chain that has been disrupted by the pandemic as well as shortages of component manufacturing and network workforce deployment.
ABI said those operators that have already deployed a significant number of base stations will be in a better position to become early adopters and benefit from a transition to 5G from previous generations, but will rely on the availability of handsets.
In the short term, 5G radio deployments will be delayed because of geopolitical constraints and COVID-19. In the long term, while 5G’s momentum will be slowed, new use cases will emerge such as Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) for surgery and health monitoring so it can be done remotely and a doctor won’t have to be near a patient infected with coronavirus or some other virus.
In order to manage the risk, ABI said network operators should rely on a few vendors dominating the infrastructure market and authorities should embrace new technologies and understand how these can be used in troubling times to improve society and business.