The momentum behind 5G continues. Already launched in more than 70 countries and by nearly 200 operators, it now covers half of global markets and almost 1/3 of the world’s population. According to GSMA Intelligence, this trajectory is set to continue with around 2bn 5G connections expected by 2025. This unprecedented growth represents the fastest generational roll-out for the mobile industry when compared to 3G and 4G. By comparison, 18 months after its launch, 5G accounted for more than 5.5% of mobile connections - neither 3G nor 4G exceeded 2.2% penetration in the same time.
Early network capability initiatives are underway to support the increasing number of innovative consumer and enterprise use cases, including the 5G utilisation of multiple sub-3GHz spectrum bands, 5G mmWave, Private Networks and 5G Advanced - the next critical milestone in the 5G Era.
As part of 3GPP Release 18, targeted for commercialisation in 2024, 5G-Advanced brings in new wireless technology innovations strengthening the 5G system foundation including improving speed, maximising coverage, enhancing mobility and power efficiency. 5G-Advanced also extends 5G to all connected devices virtually, which supports a new generation of business opportunities in areas such as smart mobility, industrial automation, metaverse and extended reality (XR) - blurring the lines between physical and digital worlds with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for consumers and workforces
5G-Advanced will bring a new wave of wireless innovations that push technology boundaries in three broad directions - Performance Improvements, Better Management and Greater Efficiency, and Enhancement for Specific Use Cases - as outlined in the GSMA’s latest whitepaper ‘Advancing the 5G Era: Benefits and Opportunity of 5G-Advanced’, that also looks at delivering industry value, technical progress so far, planning for sustainability and future opportunities.
5G-Advanced will play an important role in bridging from 5G to 6G with new features previously not standardised in 3GPP such as smart connectivity for services that focus on uplink communication and connecting people moving at high velocities – such as those on trains and planes. 5G-Advanced will also efficiently support highly immersive and interactive applications, which will be widely deployed in the entertainment, training and education sectors.
At the same time, 5G-Advanced will further strengthen support for low-cost, low-power devices, such as industrial wireless sensors, smart watches and smart eyewear, together with bandwidths below 5 MHz. It will also support time-sensitive networks, enhanced network slicing capabilities and functionality, timing-as-a-service, precise network-based positioning and enhanced positioning based on the Global Navigation Satellite System.
In addition, 5G-Advanced will support uncrewed aerial vehicles, as well as non-terrestrial networks (such as those provided by satellites) with full seamless interworking with terrestrial networks. 5G-Advanced will also harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable efficient network configuration, operation and optimisation in a sustainable way. Over time, the technology could also evolve to support integrated sensing and communication, ambient IoT, tactile and multi-modality communication services, mobile metaverse services and networks of service robots with ambient intelligence.
5G-Advanced will serve a wide variety of industries with different ecosystems, different needs and different regulatory environments and the GSMA is encouraging and facilitating cross-industry collaboration to fully explore the use cases. To achieve this, the GSMA operates several vertical industry activities and groups - across automotive, aviation, manufacturing and fintech - along with the 5G IoT Strategy Group, the Operator Platform Group and the GSMA 3GPPOP Working Group, which all support the dialogue and developments on 5G-Advanced.