Where is all the 5G standalone we were expecting?

Telcos have launched just 19 standalone 5G networks to date and that slow pace of development is understandably having an impact on mobile core spending, according to a new analyst report by Dell’Oro Group.

Apparently the slow uptake of 5G standalone networks has had an impact on mobile core network growth, which it predicts will come in at a CAGR of 3% globally over the next five years.

“The cumulative revenue forecast for the period 2022 to 2026 is over $50 billion. The overall revenues and the CAGR have been dampened by the muted uptake in 5G SA networks,” said Dave Bolan, Research Director at Dell’Oro. “5G SA network deployments have not matched the hype, with only 19 networks launched to date,” he confirmed.

The analyst did not share details of those 19 networks, but, as we know, there has been action from some major players in the industry. Germany seems to be leading the way in Europe, for example, with all three mobile operators working on standalone 5G rollouts, while Italy’s TIM has also made some progress. But there are many more operators promising forthcoming standalone rollouts, but who have yet to actually hit go.

Dell’Oro’s not giving a lot away here, but there is one clear takeaway from its announcement: the amount of noise we have heard from operators about standalone 5G clearly does not match the reality.

As the analyst firm points out, telcos have a number of technologies at their disposal for 5G, such as dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) and non-standalone options.

“Only 5G SA requires the new 5G Core and many CSPs seem content for the time being to stick with DSS and 5G NSA,” Bolan pointed out. “At the same time, CSPs are evaluating the option of moving 5G workloads to the public cloud, which is delaying the market uptake for 5G SA,” he said.

5G SA is not going anywhere; the telcos are still talking up their plans for rolling out the technology. But the question is whether it will be as pervasive as we once believed. And, as always, for how long will we have words instead of action.