Mobile carriers around the world are racing to deploy 5G with its promise of faster speeds and lower latency. As organizations and consumers wait to tap into the latest flavor of cellular technology, carriers have amped up their 5G rollouts over the past year. A report released Thursday by VIAVI shows the progress being made in expanding 5G throughout the globe.

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In its report “The State of 5G Deployments,” VIAVI said that 5G has been deployed in 378 cities across 34 countries as of January 2020. Leading the pack is South Korea with coverage in 85 cities. China takes second place with 57 cities, followed by the US with 50 and the UK with 31. The remaining countries in the top ten for 5G are Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Australia, Germany, and Romania.


Why is South Korea so far ahead of all other countries in its 5G deployment?

“Firstly, our work with the Tier-1 operators in that country has shown that they are constantly thinking about the future, including working with VIAVI on state-of-the-art customer experience analytics for 5G years ahead of broad network deployment,” VIAVI Chief Technology Officer Sameh Yamany said. “Moreover, South Korea historically has placed a strong emphasis on ubiquitous fiber deployment, which is a critical technology necessary for mobile 5G to achieve its fullest potential. Plus, the country also is home to global network equipment manufacturers actively working to advance 5G.”

Looking at regions, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) tops the list with 168 cities with 5G networks. Asia is second with 156 cities, while the Americas is in third with 53 cities. These 5G rollouts include both mobile and fixed wireless 5G networks.

The latest results show steady progress in 5G deployments over the past two years.

In February 2018, only two service providers had launched pre-commercial 5G services with limited availability, while only 28 service providers reported that they were in field trials with 5G architecture, Yamany said. In early 2019, VIAVI reported that a total of 13 commercial 5G networks had been launched during 2018 in the following countries: Australia, Finland, Kuwait, Lesotho, Poland, Qatar, South Korea, UAE, and the US.

In its latest research, VIAVI found that a number of carriers are launching 5G in the largest population centers. For example, as many as five communications service providers have been rolling out 5G in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

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“For 5G operators there is a heady mixture of optimism and fear,” Yamany said via a press release. “The optimism is related to a plethora of new commercial applications that could change operator economics for the better, even though they may not feel the commercial impact for some time. The immediate fear is that they will get left behind in the short-term marketing battle by rival operators if they’re not fast enough in their landgrab.”

Deploying 5G networks is only the first part of the battle. Carriers will also need to ensure that their 5G coverage is fast, reliable, and consistent if they expect to win and retain customers.

“The overarching driver will change from simply having 5G network availability to having the best 5G networks,” Yamany said. “Even as operators continue their 5G build-out, they will simultaneously have to shift gears from network validation and verification through to advanced analytics and automated network troubleshooting. The race for the best 5G network has only just begun.”

VIAVI compiled its 5G data from publicly available sources, including company websites, press announcements, industry trade media, and local newspapers.

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