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The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting billions of lives and nearly all industries — one area in which we expect a clear delay in established timelines is the rollout of next-generation 5G wireless networks around the world.
The virus has preempted standards meetings, occupied the attention of network operators and regulators, and disrupted global technology supply chains, and it will delay global 5G rollouts by anywhere from six months to several years as network expansions are halted and new deployments are placed on hold.
These delays will have major ramifications for companies in the smartphone space, wireless carriers, networking equipment providers, and large enterprises of all stripes. For instance, Business Insider Intelligence forecasts that 5G smartphone shipments for 2020 will now total 146 million, down from prior estimates of 200 million, with the first three quarters of the year down drastically from pre-virus estimates.
In Coronavirus And 5G Deployment Roadblocks, Business Insider Intelligence looks at how the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent fallout will slow the rollout of global 5G networks. First, we consider how the coronavirus will delay the continued development of 5G standards and the regulatory process that governs network launches. Next, we examine how supply chain strains stemming from lockdowns and quarantines will limit the availability of hardware that allows networks to broadcast their signals. We then discuss how the economic downturn caused by the virus will likely impact network operators and their ability to deploy 5G networks and bring customers on board. Finally, we look at the impact the pandemic will have on carriers’ finances.
The companies mentioned in this report are: Apple, Ericsson, Google, Huawei, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Xiaomi, and ZTE.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
- 5G networks got off the ground in 2019 and tens of millions of consumers signed up, and 2020 was expected to be the year when the next generation of wireless really took off. But following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, these aspirations have all but gone out the window.
- A delay in 5G network deployment and advancement will have major consequences for the broader connectivity ecosystem. For one, smartphone-makers that haven’t yet dipped their toes into the 5G waters will limit the speed at which they bring 5G-enabled hardware to their devices. And large enterprises that are looking to adopt 5G devices for their facilities to use as well as to deploy private 5G networks will likely hold off on moving forward.
- There will be multiple sources of the delays to 5G network deployments.
- 5G standards — the specifications and protocols that international bodies set to define how wireless networks operate — will be delayed because the 3GPP, an international telecom standards organization, won’t be able to meet.
- The companies that make the networking equipment that powers 5G radios and allows telecoms to broadcast signals are likely to face both supply chain disruptions and waning demand.
- We also expect wireless network operators that handle the investment and deployment of 5G will face decreased revenue due to fast-changing economic conditions.
In full, the report:
- Identifies key pandemic-related sources of delays to planned 5G deployments and the consequences of those delays for the broader connectivity ecosystem.
- Explains how regulatory process interruptions will slow down network launches.
- Assesses the impact of supply chain disruptions on 5G equipment availability.
- Examines how changes to carriers’ revenue and debt costs will affect 5G rollout plans.
- Shows how some of the biggest wireless networking companies expect the pandemic to impact them and how they plan to adapt.
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