Analysts predicted worldwide spending on 5G network infrastructure would almost double year-on-year in 2020, with half of all investments made on deployments in China.
In its latest study on wireless infrastructure spend, Gartner predicted $8.1 billion would be splashed globally on 5G by communications service providers (CSPs) this year, up from $4.2 billion in 2019.
The growth rate for 5G spend is down from the huge 577 per cent rise recorded between 2018 and 2019 as operators prepared for early commercial launches.
Investments in 4G are expected to total $16.4 billion as it remains the technology with the highest network expenditure, though this is down from $20.6 billion in 2019.
Its latest figures show a jump in the proportion of spending directed towards 5G, with the technology making up 21 per cent of all network infrastructure investment compared with 10 per cent previously.
Overall, infrastructure investments are set to drop 4 per cent to $38.1 billion: sums attributed to 3G and 2G networks are tipped to be 37 per cent and 41 per cent lower respectively.
Gartner research director Kosei Takiishi said: “A growing number of CSPs are prioritising 5G projects by reusing current assets including radio spectrum bandwidths, base stations, core network and transport network, and transitioning LTE/4G spend to maintenance mode.”
The company expects spending on 5G to overtake 4G in 2022, partly helped by standalone deployments, a technology 15 per cent of operators are expected to have launched by 2023.
Gartner forecast operators in China would contribute 49 per cent of global spend on 5G in 2020, with companies helped by cost-efficient local production, state sponsorship and “reduced regulatory barriers”.
When stripping Japan and China out of its figures it noted 5G investment growth rates were “slightly lower” due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis, a trend it expects to modestly rebound next year.