News Feature | March 24, 2020

The Week in 5G: 3/24/2020 — Pandemic Fuels Push for 5G Rollouts; Nokia Claims First "Global" 5G Phone

By Ed Biller


As businesses and personal interactions increasingly move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both home broadband and mobile networks face a challenge in terms of sheer traffic. A Verizon press release from March 17 points out that the carrier has seen a 75 percent increase in activity across its U.S. networks.

A follow-up, March 19, Verizon release breaks down the uptick as follows:  “Total voice usage on Verizon networks is up 25 percent, primary driver: accessing conference call services; Wireless voice usage up 10 percent, call durations up 15 percent; VPN traffic is up 25 percent; Web traffic is up 22 percent.”

In that same vein, a recent study has found that the U.S. is behind other nations in 5G rollouts and concludes that, “on average, other countries will have five times more licensed mid-band than the U.S. by end of year.” Major competitors noted in the study include China, Canada, South Korea, and the U.K.

“We need a roadmap to effectively double the amount of mid-band spectrum set for auction this year,” continues the report compiled by Analysis Mason for CTIA-the Wireless Association, “and the 3.1-3.55 GHz and 6 GHz bands are the two clear opportunities to support America’s 5G economy.”

In Japan, although the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are facing postponement due to the pandemic, carriers in that nation are attempting to push forward with 5G network rollouts as planned.

KDDI announced this week that it will offer “au 5G”-branded service in parts of 15 Japanese prefectures starting March 26, along with unlimited data, for about the same price as its 4G service (“after various early adopter discounts), reports VentureBeat. “The carrier says it will service major cities in all 47 prefectures by summer, expand to 10,000 5G base stations by March 2021, and offer 20,000 stations by March 2022,” the report states.

Australian carrier Telstra, meanwhile, has decided to delay a planned job cut program and to accelerate 5G deployment investment “due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Australia.” About 25,000 Telestra employees currently are working from home, reports RCR Wireless.

CEO Andrew Penn stated the carrier will instead focus on its productivity program to reduce underlying fixed costs, and “will be adding to our team to help manage call centre volumes and better serve our customers during this time, by recruiting an additional 1,000 temporary contractors in Australia.”

“We are also bringing forward AUD 500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second-half of fiscal year 2021 into calendar year 2020. This investment will increase capacity in our network and accelerate our roll out of 5G,” Penn said.

In Russia, that nation’s spectrum authority granted MegaFon and Rostelecom access to 5G-capable spectrum (in the 24.65 GHz to 27.5 GHz bands), allowing the duo to conduct joint 5G technology trials. The research institute Federal State Unitary Enterprise NIIR also will be allocated spectrum to carry out 5G trials, reports Developing Telecoms, linking that change in stance to Russia’s push for locally developed 5G equipment.

The Russian State Commission on Radio Frequencies (SCRF) also set aside 400 MHz of mmWave spectrum for an unspecified number of recipients to trial the technology while pushing back Russia’s first round of 5G auctions “after feedback indicated that issuing spectrum in lots was too inefficient.”

Similarly, French telecoms regulator Arcep has delayed next month’s planned 5G spectrum auction due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. The regulator will reschedule the frequency sale for a later date, with all four of the country’s major operators — Orange, SFR, Iliad, and Bouygues — set to take part.

In Hong Kong, service provider SmarTone has teamed with Ericsson on a five-year contract for the deployment of 5G in Hong Kong. An Ericsson press release notes the company already is the sole supplier of SmarTone’s 4G network.

In Finland, Nokia and Korean operator LG Uplus have announced a partnership aimed at automating Nokia’s IP transport and core networks. According to a press release, the collaboration will allow Nokia “to launch 5G services faster while providing subscribers higher speed and unprecedented quality, reliability and security.”

The release notes that this software-defined networking (SDN) automation deployment “is specifically designed for 5G cloud architectures.”

In technology news, Nokia is billing its 8.3 5G as “a truly global, future-proof 5G smartphone,” claiming the device will work with HMD Global’s (the company that makes Nokia’s phones) data roaming service, HMD Connect, to provide 5G service in over 180 countries. Per 5G Radar, HMD Connect will work through an app and will track data usage. Users will receive their SIM via mail.

5G Radar also reports the phone will “come with either 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage,” as well as feature a 6.81-inch PureDisplay and a PureView quad camera. It is expected to be available globally this summer.

Finally, a report released this week by the Silver Institute (and authored by Precious Metals Commodity Management) examines how demand for silver is expected to grow as 5G rollouts are realized. 

The report states that “5G-related silver demand currently constitutes approximately 7.5 million ounces (Moz).” It estimates that, by 2025, that demand will rise to about 16 Moz by 2025, and to 23 Moz by 2030. For the sake of comparison, the report notes that silver’s use in the photovoltaic industry was approximately 40 Moz in 2010 but grew to 80.5 Moz by 2018.