Research insights
Coronavirus outbreak may not affect 2020 5G capex if contained by mid-year, Digitimes Research says
Benson Wu, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

While the cancellation of MWC 2020 and the locked-down management in many cities in China due to the coronavirus outbreak have raised concerns about the development of 5G, the epidemic may end up with limited impacts on the operations of telecom firms as well as the deployments of 5G infrastructure in 2020 if it can be contained by mid-year, according to Digitimes Research.

It is obvious that the deployments of 5G networks in China will be affected as many Chinese cities currently being locked down are those that have been given priority for installation of 5G base stations, Digitimes Research has found.

However, judging from the experience that gained from the SARS outbreak in 2003, quarantine and other isolation measures will eventually deepen people's reliance on communication services in terms of increased mobile subscribers, mobile revenues and voice traffic.

In addition, the deployments of 5G networks are long-term infrastructure projects that may be only temporarily interrupted by short-term incidents, and China's telecom operators are poised to expand their capex significantly to accelerate their 5G deployments in the second half of 2020 provided the epidemic is under control by June, says Digitimes Research.

Nevertheless, if the epidemic continues into the second half of the year, the development of the 5G industry in China may not accelerate until 2021.

The development of the global 5G industry had been fast before the outbreak. By the end of 2019, a total of 61 telecom operators worldwide had kicked off commercial 5G services, with the availability of 5G end-market devices totaling 208 items, Digitimes Research notes.

Accumulated number of 5G base stations in China, 2019-2025

Source: Digitimes Research, February 2020

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