We are in commercial 5G era! The world’s first commercial 5G networks were launched today in Tampere Finland and Tallinn Estonia.
It was already expected that this year will see the first commercial rollouts of 5G networks. It seem that many telecom companies are aiming to launch 5G service really soon this year or next year. The competition has been on who is the first operator with commercial 5G network.
Finnish telecom operator Elisa says in press release that it has become the first operator in the world to begin commercial use of a 5G network and starts selling 5G subscriptions. The first person to use the 5G network was Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications, who made a video call to Kadri Simson, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure in Estonia.
Uusiteknologia.fi magazine reports that this call was video call that was made with Huawei’s 5G router and networking devices. Elisa said it would launch a 5G subscription, alongside the network, even though the Communications Ministry is still only preparing to share the first commercial 5G licenses for 3400-3800 MHz frequency band in few months. Now network is operating with testing license. Tekniikkatalous.fi reports that the Elisa network used 3.5 GHz frequency band and is was able to support up to 2.2 Gbit/s data rate using 100 MHz RF bandwidth. You can buy the subscription right away, but at this point you still can not do anything right because Elisa does not sell any 5g devices for the network (they have now only limited number of devices for their own use).
Also other big Finnish telecom operators Telia and DNA have already tested 5G technologies.
Was this really the first commercial 5g networks? Hard to say for sure and depends on criteria what is considered to be be “commercial 5G network”. For example a little over one moth ago Qatar’s Ooredoo says that it has just launched 5G Supernet, “the first commercially available 5G network in the world.” The spectrum band for the Ooredoo first 5G NR network is 3.5 GHz. The 5G NR network offers higher speeds, capacity, and better latency, than existing cellular systems. Also last month Etisalat announced the launch of the first commercial 5G wireless network in the UAE.
Based on my knowledge this Elisa 5G was clearly first commercial 5G launch in Western Europe. Was it is first in the world is up to debating.
Ericsson forecasts over 1 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, accounting for around 12% of all mobile subscriptions. By end of 2023, close to 50% of all mobile subscriptions in North America are forecast to be for 5G. For Western Europe 5G penetration is expected to be at 21%.