Wireless network operators in four countries -- the United States, Japan, South Korea and China -- are largely driving the first 5G buildouts. Network operators are expected to spend billions of dollars on 5G capital expenses through 2030, according to Technology Business Research (TBR) Inc., although it is not clear how 5G services will generate a return on that investment. Evolving use cases and business models that take advantage of 5G's benefits could address operators' revenue concerns.
Simultaneously, standards bodies are working on universal 5G equipment standards. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) approved 5G New Radio (NR) standards in December 2017 and is expected to complete the 5G mobile core standard required for 5G cellular services. The 5G radio system is not compatible with 4G radios, but network operators that have purchased wireless radios recently may be able to upgrade to the new 5G system via software rather than buying new equipment.
With 5G wireless equipment standards almost complete and the first 5G-compliant smartphones and associated wireless devices commercially available in 2019, 5G use cases will begin to emerge between 2020 and 2025, according to TBR projections. By 2030, 5G services will become mainstream and are expected to range from the delivery of VR content to autonomous vehicle navigation enabled by real-time communications (RTC) capabilities.
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