The telecommunications company has released research wrapping up 5G numbers in 2021, and forecasts the advancements made in the field of 6G.

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Spirent has released data as a part of its third annual 5G outlook report, based on analysis and takeaways from over 800 new global 5G engagements in 2021. The report details 5G engagement numbers over the last year, as well as their 6G projections for the years ahead.

“In 2021 we saw service provider engagements increase by 56% year-on-year as customers race to make 5G a reality,” said Steve Douglas, Spirent’s Head of Market Strategy. “Market competition intensified and the impact of the pandemic accelerated business automation plans. As a result, service providers established early partnerships with public cloud providers, and almost half of service provider activity focused on service assurance and service experience, including competitive benchmarking.”

5G growth in 2021

Spirent found as part of the study that it had 1,800 5G engagements over the past three years, a growth of more than 40% year-over-year in the areas of service assurance, core and cloud testing and field testing. Outside of the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Africa showed a growth of over 60% in engagements during that same period as well. Additionally, service provider engagement increased more than 50% year over year as a multitude of operators have begun to accelerate their initial 5G rollouts.

This growth in 5G engagements over the past two years shows a trend that many different companies are hoping to have an edge in 5G services moving forward. Based on Spirent’s estimation, there have been at least 19 small commercial launches to date, with more than 90 trials and vendor selection processes underway.

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In the realm of cloud deployment, 5G is anticipated to have the capability of increased complexity to enhance the level of data security available to enterprises. While there is an urgency with this move to the cloud, it is important to note that this is still a few years off from widespread adoption. Operators will need to determine how best to transition to containerized, cloud-native functions, instead of simply migrating capabilities to the cloud.

5G release 16 is expected to support industrial services, with a steady stream of updates to follow in the years moving forward. One challenge with making these advancements a reality are the ability to integrate with older systems, such as 2G and 3G services and infrastructures, and determining which of these legacy systems should remain in place and which ones should be retired.

Predictions for 2022

As far as forecasting the future of 5G, the growth will be driven by trends including enterprise digitalization strategies advanced by 5G and Wi-Fi 6 convergence, capitalizing on breakthrough technologies across the Internet of Things, big data analytics and intelligent automation. Spirent also estimates that as the 5G network availability expands, it will be able to assist enterprises in a number of different areas, such as private company campuses, in the cloud and in factories to help with automation. While 2020’s 5G expansion was deterred because of the limitations caused by the pandemic, the company notes that they expect major growth over the next several years in the 5G arena.

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As companies begin investing in their own private 5G networks to help secure their data, Spirent’s data projects that private LTE or 5G networks will expand from 3,000 networks to 14,000, an increase of 367% over the next few years. The company also notes they expect large venues, transportation hubs and industrial campus networks to sustain the private 5G network growth that is expected.

While 5G is still expanding and becoming, 6G is anticipated to power the metaverse in this digital world where holographic, tactile feedback and physiological sensations can be transmitted instantly. In real-world applications, 6G is expected to aid in the functions of everything from automated industrial machinery to smart surfaces within buildings, although this represents the earliest conceptions of possibilities. The architecture of 6G is also likely to expand once it becomes widely available beyond what we know as the traditional mobile limitations as networks should be able to work together to create coverage from anywhere in the world.