Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been relentlessly spreading across the world. Countless events, both international and domestic, big and small, have been either postponed or canceled due to the ongoing pandemic. This was supposed to be the year the 5G network rollout would make the technology mainstream and widely available. But the much-anticipated rollout of the lightning-quick 5G network may now be in the slow lane.
Because of the increasing spread of the disease in many European countries, various 5G network spectrum regulators have postponed the long-awaited auction of the 5G spectrum. These auctions were crucial for network providers to launch or expand the already existing 5G network systems.
Austria’s Telekom-Control-Kommission (TKK) has decided to postpone its second 5G auction, which was initially scheduled for April. However, the regulator insisted that the auction should take place by end of the year to make sure it does not endanger the pre-planned 5G network rollout.
Meanwhile, in Spain, all major telecom operators have postponed their auctions for the 700MHz frequencies. And according to a report, France’s regulator Arcep has temporarily put a pause for the auction of 3.4-3.8GHz frequencies. And the Czech Republic is among other countries that have either postponed or are in the plans of postponing their network band auctions.
While no one has officially stated anything about the long-term impact and the delay, the current situation could cause setbacks in the scheduled 5G rollouts. Huawei — one of the largest manufacturers of 5G network peripherals for Europe’s 5G networks — confirmed the network rollout will be delayed. Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said there would “definitely” be an impact in the 5G rollout in Europe.
5G networks: The global scale
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, often referred to as 3GPP, works as an umbrella for various standard organizations to develop protocols for mobile communications. The same association, which had various face-to-face meetings set up for 5G network rollout, has announced a three-month delay in Release 16 and Release 17 amidst the COVID-19 situation.
Release 16 ASN.1 (abstract syntax notation) along with the OpenAPI specifications are now postponed and are scheduled to take place in June. Release 17 ASN. 1, along with OpenAPI itself, is scheduled for December 2021. Both Release 16 and Release 17 are considered crucial for further development and standardization of 5G network technology. However, 3GPP has not yet officially commented about how this delay would affect the rollout of 5G networks globally.
Because no one can exactly figure out when the world is going to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is very unpredictable to plan the fully-functional 5G rollouts. Moreover, COVID-19 is also likely to affect the launch events of various devices and smartphones including Apple’s first-ever 5G iPhones scheduled to launch in September.
More postponements and announcements seem to be likely in the coming weeks considering the current situations. However, all we can hope for now is we come out of this pandemic together — and with our health.
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