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An extraordinary year for 5G

2019 will go down as a pivotal point in the history of 5G. It was the year in which real-world commercial deployments started to roll out in growing numbers — and deliver tangible results. It was also a year that offered some tantalizing glimpses into the future of telecommunications.

First and fast

It’s been amazing to see how quickly service providers around the world have embraced 5G. That includes groundbreaking research, standardization initiatives and, increasingly, a competitive race to be first to market with commercial 5G services.

Early 2019 saw all three service providers in South Korea launch 5G services, reaching a million subscribers in just two months. By the end of the year, projections indicate that number will rise to five million, with plans to cover 80% of the population! Further, data consumption is on the rise due to the faster speeds (speeds of up to 1.45Gbps reported) and increased responsiveness that 5G offers, with 5G users consuming 65% more data than 4G users, according to Light Reading Asia.

Telia rolled out the first large-scale indoor deployment of 5G at Finland’s biggest shopping mall and, more recently, reported 5G speeds of 2Gbps, the highest in all of Europe.  These are significant milestones in the quest to build modern 5G smart cities as well as for retailers and entrepreneurs who will use 5G to develop and test novel retail experiences utilizing AR and VR, facial and video recognition, and tailored in-store signage and entertainment experiences.

In Australia, Optus started providing 5G fixed-wireless access (FWA) to subscribers giving more people the opportunity to have broadband at home (with faster speeds) and then next year the first 4K live sports streaming service.

And in the U.S., all four major carriers have now launched 5G and speeds are already approaching 2 Gbps.

Experiencing the extraordinary

Commercial-scale deployments are helping prove the power of 5G to deliver amazing new services and extraordinary user experiences. 


Sprint is a great example. Their 5G launch included a cloud gaming service that gives 5G subscribers on-demand access to more than 100 premium games with no downloads or installations required. The power of the 5G network was on full display during their market launches in New York and Los Angeles, showing not only fast speeds but coverage and capacity in what are very challenging dense urban areas.

AT&T recently hosted an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the iconic TV show, ‘Friends’, leveraging their 5G network. Customers were able to stream or download episodes in ultra-HD 4K directly to their mobile devices at much faster speeds than 4G can provide. AT&T also streamed a concert by the Rembrandts, creators of the show’s famed theme song, live from the stage in Las Vegas via smartphone to online viewers.  And some lucky folks also got to experience how volumetric video and AR can be combined to put customers right in the middle of the ‘Friends’ set.


New experiences have also been delivered in Saudi Arabia by Zain, where 5G-enabled virtual reality let visitors experience Hajj (the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mekkah) remotely as though they were there. High-resolution, 360-degree video feeds from multiple locations were transmitted to room-size displays in real time, allowing viewers to be fully immersed in the experience.

These fantastic displays of real-world applications of 5G would not have been possible a year ago! 

Driving 5G forward

2019 was as much a year of collaboration as it was of “rubber to the road” implementation. We’ve seen collaborative efforts between the telecom industry and vertical industries take significant strides forward – which is key because 5G needs value-generating ecosystems surrounding it.  Such industry bodies, like the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation, and the 5G Automotive Association, are working to establish a shared understanding of 5G requirements between the manufacturing, transportation and telecoms industries, driving forward innovative new applications and use cases leveraging the capabilities of 5G.  The collaboration between chipset and device manufacturers has delivered the goods - giving us a plethora of smartphones and mobile hotspots to support 5G commercial launches.  As of October, the GSA counts 41 smartphones, 9 hotspots and 28 indoor/outdoor CPE’s plus USB dongles and routers being available. And there are expectations of higher performing units to come next year and perhaps we may also see some of the first non-traditional 5G devices for industrial/enterprises.

An exciting future

While the first phase of 5G has focused primarily on the consumer market, 2020 will bring a big swing toward enterprises. Gaining traction already are private networks and significant progress is being made to support time-sensitive networks, critical to delivering the full suite of industrial 5G applications. We also expect to see the first implementations of standalone 5G networks which will provide further capabilities to fuel the fourth industrial revolution, create smarter cities and improve the quality of everything from healthcare to education to transportation.


Whatever your vision is for 5G, don’t wait. As we saw over this past year, 5G has arrived — and the future is certainly looking very exciting.  Explore more at

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #5G #AI #industry40 #VR #innovation

Jason Elliott

About Jason Elliott

As head of CSP cross-portfolio solutions and partners marketing, Jason combines broad technical and market knowledge to advance the future of communications. He has contributed to showcasing many industry firsts at technology events around the globe and is impassioned to show how technology can have a positive impact on our world.

Tweet me @jre_elliott

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