Spirent Communications plc, the leading provider of test and assurance solutions for next-generation devices and networks, today released its fifth annual 5G outlook report, based on analysis and takeaways from over 500 new global 5G engagements in 2023. The “5G 2024: Market Drivers, Insights & Considerations” report provides insights from across the 5G ecosystem on the status of 5G, revealing trends, geographical differences and future potential.

“5G Standalone (SA) network deployments were delayed last year, in part due to the technical challenges of deploying and integrating new, cloud-native 5G Core technologies,” said Spirent’s head of market strategy, Steve Douglas. “This year, however, we expect the market to pick up speed. For the first time, the demand for new 5G SA capabilities, and the supply of network equipment and devices to enable them, are finally aligned. Suppliers see a 5G market that’s ready to scale and demand for next generation 5G SA capabilities and the journey to 5G Advanced is ramping up.”

The most promising 5G trends include the following:

  • 5G SA and the new core: Despite slow commercial deployment momentum during 2023, Spirent’s industry-leading Landslide 5G core test solution was selected by over 30 operators - a strong indicator of commercial 5G SA acceleration in 2024. With increased demand for testing the 5G core’s differentiated capabilities and a heightened focus on optimizing power consumption expect leading operators to prioritize on new revenue generating services and energy efficiency.
  • 5G SA is a catalyst for digital transformation: The move to 5G SA is becoming a primary business driver for network and OSS digital transformation programs especially around the use of automation across the network lifecycle. Based on our global engagements we estimate 20% of mature service providers have begun implementing DevOps and agile practices like continuous testing.
  • 5G SA device and handset service experience testing: These engagements doubled with increased focus on the performance and experience of new services around immersive voice and video as operators look to launch new consumer and enterprise private network offerings.
  • Transport network testing: To cope with the 4-5x traffic growth seen by leading operators and in preparation of 5G SA leading operators began their 200/400G ethernet refresh cycles for IP Core backbones while 5G RAN deployments drove cell site gateway upgrades for 10/25G edge routers and the move to 100G at aggregation sites.
  • Non-Terrestrial Network testing: New low Earth orbit satellite testing increased with industry focus on understanding performance capabilities and the technical and regulatory challenges related to delivering direct-to-device 5G services. 
  • Private 5G testing: 2023 saw growing interest around early Release 17 capabilities including reduced capability while early commercial private network implementations were delivering return on investment in as early as six months across a targeted set of use cases and a simplified network-in-a-box deployment model.

The report also notes emerging and growing trends that Spirent is watching – areas where 5G is showing progress and potential, such as:

  • 5G Standalone: This is a market in infancy with 51 commercial deployments and limited population coverage. But momentum is growing as service providers prepare controlled growth deployments and device availability reaches critical mass.
  • Private 5G: More than 1,200 private LTE/5G networks have been commercially deployed over the last few years as pending SA deployments, lifecycle automation and security focused network slices could lead to more than 40,000 rollouts by 2027.
  • Open and Virtual RAN: The supply-side ecosystem comprises more than 50 suppliers, while demand-side support includes more than 30 service providers targeting meaningful coverage deployments through the second half of the decade.
  • 5G Advanced: As 5G SA upgrades accelerate, users will finally get a feel for what true 5G can offer. Right on its heels will be 5G Advanced, defined by 3GPP in Releases 18 and 19, it targets a wider set of industry use cases including immersive XR applications and expands the role of AI within the network.