Most consumers won’t see full benefit of 5G until 2020: analysts

Analysts are urging the telecoms industry to be pragmatic about the prospects for 5G (Image Vertigo3d / iStockPhoto)
Mobile 5G will be live on multiple carriers this year, but benefits won't reach most consumers and enterprises until at least 2020, according to a new report. (Vertigo3d/iStockPhoto)

While mobile 5G will make its debut this year as multiple carriers launch initial markets, most consumers and enterprises probably won’t see the full benefit of 5G services until 2020 or later, according to a new report from analysts at Wells Fargo.

“As standards are finalized and compatible handsets are released, we will see initial mobile 5G deployments likely in late 2019. In reality, however, most consumers and enterprises probably won’t see the full benefit of 5G services until 2020 and beyond,” the analysts wrote in a report on the top telecom themes for 2019.

Spectrum will also remain top of mind in large part due to the advancements of 5G in 2019. Wells Fargo believes much of the spectrum focus will be on millimeter wave auctions, 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum and C-band spectrum. “We would expect carriers, financial buyers and possibly cable or technology players all to show interest,” wrote the analysts, led by Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche.

RELATED: Fixed wireless ecosystem rallies around 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum

Wells Fargo also expects T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint to be approved during the first half of 2019; however, it does anticipate that T-Mobile will have to divest spectrum assets to receive final approval. “Our regulatory checks suggest that the Department of Justice and FCC approval process has been relatively drama free thus far,” the analysts wrote.

RELATED: Verizon Wireless says current spectrum holdings are sufficient for 5G buildout

Finally, the analysts argue that infrastructure investments will be critical to unleash the full potential of 5G. “A dense fiber footprint, distributed small cell sites, new spectrum bands and edge compute nodes are all critical to getting 5G live,” the analysts wrote. “We believe a critical component will be additional fiber-optic cable, which would serve multiple use cases to enable wireless network connectivity, home broadband, video and enterprise applications.”