The effect of the pandemic has been paralyzing on an economic level, in service industries and manufacturing businesses. There have been several reports lately about how tech giants such as Apple and Samsung have been forced to put back their plans for newer models due to be released this year. Supply and demand has been hugely impacted and in turn has effected the vendors of 5G infrastructure.
The most networks for 5G require Tier One infrastructure vendors, however, their supply chain has been massively disrupted on an international level. Shortages of component manufacturing and network staffing deployment, like that of engineers are some of the main reasons for such disruption. In the US alone, it is estimated that all this and even the unforeseen in the weeks to come, will cause the great plans for 2020 5G infrastructure revenue to decrease as much as 10% of the forecasted $2.1 billion.
“The current virus outbreak will likely delay the deployment of advanced 5G NR systems, including Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) and active antennas that several operators have already started deploying,” explains Jiancao Hou, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
Those operators who have been quick off the mark and positioned a number of base stations already, will likely find themselves in a better position; potentially reaping the rewards for earlier transition from 4G to 5G. Although, those operators will not necessarily be effected directly by lack of infrastructure, they will be impacted by the lack of available 5G handsets. This means that in the short term, 5G radio deployments will probably be delayed due to geographical limitations and of course, the wider effects of COVID-19.
While the momentum of 5G will be slowed down, new use cases are likely to emerge. Therefore it is still necessary for mobile operators to broaden their supply chain and avoid a single vendor infrastructure market. This comes down to operators working efficiently and making the best of this current crisis. Already we have seen streaming services like Netflix announce huge profits, whilst operators on an international level have reported a decline, despite a significant increase in network activity.
Otherwise, the effects of the virus could potentially be a catalyst for more innovative use cases and services, such as 5G Ultra Reliable Low-Latency Communications in the form of remote health monitoring.
There is yet another lesson for operators in the sense that they now need to manage the risk of relying on a few vendors who dominate the infrastructure market. Relevant telecoms regulatory authorities need to be more flexible in adopting new technologies and decide on how they can be used to improve business in these times.