2019 saw 5G become a commercial reality – 2020 will take it to the mass market

2019 was without question the year of 5G, as the industry took it from the conceptual phase of standardisation of 2018, to worldwide consumer launches. This is primarily due to the successful collaborative efforts made by the industry to identify common challenges, share relevant learnings and arrive together at the solutions needed – and the GSMA is delighted to have provided the common forum required for much of that important work.

2019 was, for instance, the year we saw solid foundations laid to make the famously capital-intensive 5G commercially viable at scale.  Network slicing (whereby 5G networks are divided into logical networks that allocate resources and optimised functionality to best serve each use case) has been recognised for some time as the route to affordability in 5G’s deployment, but only this year did the industry gain a shared understanding of quite how it should work and started to tackle the practicalities of deploying network slicing.

In October the GSMA released NG.116 Generic Network Slice Template v2.0, a technical document designed to harmonise how the attributes of network slices are described across the industry.  NG.116 is expected to foster more effective communications between those who provide network slices (i.e. mobile network operators) and their customers in enterprise, infrastructural stakeholders and device manufacturers. It’s been referenced by 3GPP as well as in a number of industry publications, making it one of the most significant contributions made by the GSMA to the mobile industry this year.

An essential part of the GSMA’s work is of course in providing common industry guidance and fostering cooperation. For instance, now that 5G is on a firmer financial footing and consumer launches are taking place in earnest around the world, early adopters and infrastructure vendors have shared their experience on how successfully deploy 5G.  The GSMA released the 5G Implementation Guidelines in July, a reference manual which uses the expertise of trailblazing operators and vendors to help those still to launch 5G with getting started.

The Implementation Guidelines provide technological, spectrum and regulatory considerations to help operators navigate non-standalone deployment of 5G – based on consultation with 20 operators across three continents – via a practical checklist format. With guidelines on ‘Option 3’ non-standalone deployment now agreed, and the standalone 5G deployment model (commonly referred to as ‘Option 2’) already in the roadmap of most operators,  there is a need for the ecosystem to consider the support of other core connectivity options for 5G. These considerations are set out in our Operator Requirements for 5G Core Connectivity Options from May 2019 – a whitepaper outlining the benefits and drawbacks of three options that different operators may need. We look forward to updating these essential guidelines in March 2020 and work is already progressing on the 5G Implementation Guideline for 5G SA-NR.

The GSMA’s 5G Resolution Centre has pooled the resources of industry experts to build a database of practical solutions on a range of topics including Virtualisation, IMS, VoLTE/ViLTE as well as 5G. Building on the success of the VoLTE Resolution Centre, of which resolution was provided for fully 97% of the cases submitted – the GSMA is pleased to host a forum for all those helping make 5G a reality to help each other.

After a successful year getting 5G off the ground, 2020 is set to prove the year for mass-market adoption around the world. The GSMA is as ever poised to help operators and their partners make the most of the opportunities at hand – to join the initiative and register for future industry events driving 5G forward, please sign up here.