A new study from Juniper Research has found that with the first 5G networks launching in 2019, total connections will scale rapidly to 1.5 billion by 2025, with initial growth driven by fixed wireless access to replace or complement current broadband connectivity.

The research group found that operators in Japan and South Korea have established themselves as clear leaders in the development of 5G. The research forecast that 43% of global 5G connections will be located in these two countries in 2019.

Juniper analyzed over 50 leading global operators, based on criteria including the results of 5G testing and trials, the extent and range of partnerships in the 5G ecosystem and the level of technology innovation. The top 5 operators leading Juniper’s 5G Operator Positioning Index were: NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, LG U +, KT Telecom, and Softbank. Leading operators including AT&T and China Mobile closely followed the top five players in the Positioning Index.

Juniper also forecast that 5G broadband will be amongst the first services to launch over 5G. Its suitability as a last mile solution will drive adoption to over 220 million connections by 2025. However, the challenge for operators will be to demonstrate tangible benefits, to enterprises and consumers, over existing fibre-based solutions.

“Operators must carefully consider pricing strategies for 5G broadband. Pricing must address both the anticipated large traffic generated, whilst remaining price competitive against incumbent broadband suppliers,” says research author Sam Barker.

However, the research cautioned that operators faced significant challenges both to deploy and most effectively configure 5G networks. It claimed that the need to deploy dense small cell networks, operators would need far greater access to sites to upgrade and share equipment. Furthermore, it urged operators to invest in virtualized networks to enable both more efficient traffic management and improve security in the network perimeter.