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5G not impacted by COVID-19, commercial deployment draws near

Mobile service providers are making progress towards 5G networks to bring high speed mobile connectivity to new applications and smart infrastructure.

Furthermore, this growth is not being hindered by COVID-19, according to new research from A10 Networks.

Current progress includes steady work toward virtualising core network functions and a reexamination of the security investments they will need to protect their networks and customers.

This is according to the report titled, ‘Toward a More Secure 5G World’, developed by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, in partnership with A10 Networks.

The study finds that the percentage of mobile service providers who say their companies are “moving rapidly toward commercial deployment” has increased significantly in the past year, climbing from 26% in a survey announced in early 2019 to 45% in the new survey.

Virtually all respondents say improved security is a critical network requirement and top concern in the 5G era.

A10 Networks states early 5G networks are being designed in accordance with the already-approved non-standalone 5G standard.

However, 30% of respondents say they are already proactively planning to add standalone 5G, and another 9% say their companies will move directly to standalone.

Standalone 5G will require a whole new network core utilising a cloud-native, virtualised, service-based architecture. Many respondents, in fact, say they are making significant progress toward network virtualisation.

BPI Network director of thought leadership Dave Murray says, “Our latest study indicates that major mobile carriers around the world are on track with their 5G plans, and more expect to begin commercial build-outs in the coming months.

“While COVID-19 may result in some short-term delays for operators, the pandemic ultimately demonstrates a global need for higher speed, higher capacity 5G networks and the applications and use cases they enable.”

The study also found that 81% believe industry progress toward 5G is moving rapidly, mostly in major markets, or is at least in line with expectations.

Furthermore, 71% expect to begin 5G network build-outs within 18 months, including one-third who have already begun or will do so in 2020.

Nearly all (95%) say virtualising network functions is important to their 5G plans, and some three-quarters say their companies are either well on their way or making good progress toward virtualisation.

Finally, 99% view deployment of mobile edge clouds as an important aspect of 5G networks, with 65% saying they expect edge clouds on their 5G networks within 18 months.

A10 Networks worldwide vice president Gunter Reiss says, “Mobile operators globally need to proactively prepare for the demands of a new virtualised and secure 5G world.

“That means boosting security at key protection points like the mobile edge, deploying a cloud-native infrastructure, consolidating network functions, leveraging new CI/CD integrations and DevOps automation tools, and moving to an agile and hyperscale service-based architecture as much as possible.

“All of these improvements will pay dividends immediately with existing networks and move carriers closer to their ultimate goals for broader 5G adoption and the roll-out of new and innovative ultra-reliable low-latency use cases.”