With the launch of 5G planned for 2020, it is the year we are all talking about! But what impact will it have on the telecoms landscape of the future? In this blog, we look further ahead to telecoms networks in 2030.
2030 may seem a long way off, but twelve years can fly by pretty quickly. After all, it was only twelve years ago that President Bush was in power, the Nintendo Wii was released and Pluto was downgraded as a planet. In the world of telecoms, a lot can change in that time, and with 5G now on the horizon, what will the telecom networks in 2030 likely look like?
Mobile Networks: 5G will be king, 2G will be dead and 6G will be the new buzz word
If we look back on 4G, the time between commercialisation and widespread coverage wasn’t very long at all. Commercialised in 2010, just 5 years later and 4G was available to over a third of the global population. So, if 5G follows in its footsteps, and stays on track to launch at the 2020 Olympics, by the time 2030 arrives it will undoubtedly be widespread across the globe.
And with 5G firmly in place, it’s likely that most, if not all 2G networks will be switched off by 2030. In fact, some operators have already got the ball rolling with Singapore, America and Australia leading the way. However, it looks like the retirement of 2G across Europe may be a little slower; 2G networks still remain profitable and offer the opportunity to carry M2M communications. Telenor Norway has suggested that it will actually shut down its 3G network before retiring 2G. It predicts that 3G will be retired in 2020 and 2G will not be retired until five years later in 2025. By the time 2030 arrives, it’s likely that a lot of 3G networks will have also reached the end of their era. Of course, with 2G and 3G out of the picture, Voice over LTE will be the predominant voice channel. VoLTE users are already growing in China, America and India, and VoLTE subscriptions are expected to reach 4.6 billion by 2022.
And the new buzzword in 2030? 6G of course! Since the early 90’s we have seen the launch of a new and improved generation of mobile technology every decade; in ‘91 we had 2G, in ‘98 we had 3G, in 2010 we had 4G, and (if all goes to plan) in 2020 we will have 5G. So if this trend continues, by 2030 we will at least be discussing 6G.
Fixed Networks: The home phone will be obsolete and fibre will stand its ground
When it comes to fixed networks, the home phone has been on its way out for a while now. 2016 was the first year where there were more households without a home phone than with a home phone in the US. And in many developing countries, where fixed infrastructure is highly unreliable, people have skipped the home phone completely and gone straight to mobile; Ghana, Uganda, Pakistan and Indonesia all have home phone penetration rates of less than 5%. So with western countries phasing it out, and developing countries going straight to mobile, the home phone will likely be a thing of the past by 2030.
For broadband, copper is nearing its maximum capacity, and is quickly becoming seen as old tech as fibre coverage increases. Of course fixed-line networks will still play a major part in our communications infrastructure in 2030. As much as mobile speeds, coverage and capacity advances, mobile can still prove problematic with indoor coverage, and many consumers, and most businesses will still require high-speed fixed line connections. 4K video will also put a much greater strain on our networks over the coming decade which will help cement the status of fibre well into the future.
So, what does it mean for network operators in 2030?
Continual, rapid change is thankfully something that communications network operators are used to, and can rapidly adapt to. And from now until 2030 will be no exception. Firstly, operational teams will have to adapt to the planning, deployment and monitoring of new 5G technology, likely to be quite a change from previous generations. Monitoring the VoLTE experience will also become a priority as it begins to replace older voice generations. Many operators will adopt value based network planning, in which they look at connectivity as a whole, rather than treating mobile and fixed-line separately. By mapping their coverage, capacity and quality in a geographical grid-like manor, operators can see coverage across all technologies. They can plan based on what is needed within a specific area and make economical investments, for example installing a small-cell rather than a new cell site may be sufficient.
In 2030, traditional network operators are also likely to be tackling a new threat in the marketplace; internet by satellite. SpaceX, a project by Elon Musk, and funded by Google, plans to begin launching over 4000 satellites into space in 2019, with the aim of providing high-speed internet on a global scale. With the promise of low latency, good speeds and improved rural coverage, it may well be one of the biggest treats that telco operates will see in the next decade.
Of course, we may well see completely new communication technologies arrive over the next 12 years, but if current developments and market trends remain on track, the telecommunications landscape could look quite different by the time we reach 2030.