73 MNOs worldwide have launched 5G services, bringing benefits to consumers and communities

11 May 2020 | Research

Perspective | PDF (9 pages) | Next-Generation Wireless Networks

"The availability of spectrum and devices enabled fast network roll-outs during the first year of 5G launches."


3 April 2020 was the 1-year anniversary of the first 5G network launches by the three mobile network operators (MNOs) in South Korea. Roughly 73 MNOs in 41 countries have launched some flavour of 5G network since these first launches. Some only provide enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services to deliver additional capacity and alleviate some of the strain caused by their heavy data users, while others offer a combination of eMBB together with fixed-wireless access (FWA) services.

MNOs want to position their 5G networks and develop tariffs to target the high-value end of the market in order to drive an increase in ARPU. Fast-moving MNOs, such as those in South Korea and China, that are concerned with the declining ARPU trends that have been seen in the last few years have developed various strategies to migrate 4G subscribers to 5G, such as the increased bundling of value-added propositions and the delivery of unlimited data bundles with slight premiums over 4G tariffs. These MNOs are also using 5G to broaden their market reach and are increasingly targeting the enterprise segment to address use cases beyond just communications, such as the remote control of heavy machinery.

However, MNOs cannot deploy 5G networks with a good quality of service (QoS) without adequate spectrum in the appropriate bands. Similarly, smartphone and other device manufacturers cannot build economies of scale without national regulatory authorities’ (NRAs’) spectrum strategies and roadmaps to auctions.

Device manufacturers did not deliver new handsets prior to the launches of 3G and 4G networks, but at least one 5G smartphone was already available before the 5G launches in South Korea, and more followed quickly after. The intense market competition between the ecosystem players together with the consumer demand for high-capacity mobile data networks and services will continue to stimulate the telecoms industry and deliver benefits.


Successful 5G service launches require the collaboration of multiple parties, such as MNOs, national regulatory authorities and device manufacturers.

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