Engineering 101

Integration Of 5G Outpacing 4G At Same Stage Of Life

The Global Certification Forum (GCF) has published its annual Mobile Device Trends report, which includes an analysis of wireless device certification data for 2020 and expectations for 2021 based on recent trends. The report reveals that the rate of 5G integration into devices has continued to rise, significantly outpacing the rate at which 4G was adopted in its early years.

This growth appears to have been unaffected by the pandemic despite the logistical issues posed. 2020 also saw a significant increase in the number of devices incorporating a cellular IoT standard compared to the previous two years.

As the globally recognised quality mark for the interoperability of mobile phones and other devices that incorporate mobile connectivity, GCF is well-placed to monitor and comment on the adoption of technologies in the sector. Over 130 device manufacturers across 23 countries are currently participating in GCF and the certification programmes are recognised by network operators with interests in global markets. A total of 715 device models from 75 manufacturers were certified by GCF in 2020. The analysis of GCF certifications provides insights into the mobile technologies and functionalities being requested by operators and end users across markets worldwide.

Now in its second year, the integration of 5G into devices has continued rapidly and at a greater speed than 4G experienced in its early years. 21% of all 2020 certificated devices integrated 5G (compared to 2.5% in 2019); these 149 devices originated from 28 vendors. 32 of the devices supported the mmWave spectrum. A third (34%) of 5G devices supported the 5G standalone option.

The complexity of 5G systems is high with the average device supporting 8.8 5G bands. 65 devices deployed more than 10 5G bands; nine devices deployed more than 15 5G bands; and one device supported up to 19 5G bands. The benefit of this complexity is that certified multimode, multiband devices can be marketed in multiple territories, thereby improving economies of scale for manufacturers. Pre-launch testing is required to demonstrate that each individual bearer technology is performing correctly and that the incorporated technologies interwork with each other to deliver seamless operation to end users when moving between areas covered by different technologies. GCF’s certification framework is the most cost-effective way of robustly testing these core communications capabilities.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Lars Nielsen, GCF CEO and General Manager, said: “Based on the current certification trends, we expect to see that 5G will be supported in more than 40% of all device models certified during 2021, and that over 75% of these will support standalone 5G functionality. There will also be an increase in devices capable of using the higher bandwidth mmWave (FR2) 5G frequencies. Growth for the 5G device sector will focus on, but will not be limited to, smartphones and modules.”

GCF’s Mobile Device Trends report contains detailed figures and analysis on a wide range of emerging and legacy technologies including 5G, LTE, cellular IoT, eSIM, oneM2M, LTE, 3G, cdma2000 and GSM.

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