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5G global revenues to double by 2020, report says

But researchers caution against abandoning 4G networks.

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The race toward 5G continues, and revenues are projected to skyrocket. 

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

IT research firm Gartner released a forecast Thursday projecting revenues from worldwide 5G network infrastructure will reach $4.2 billion by 2020. That would amount to an 89% revenue hike from the firm's 2019 projections of $2.2 billion. The firm expects overall 4G revenues to dip from $19.32 billion in 2019 to $18.28 billion in 2020, with similar drops in 3G and 2G revenues. 

"It's still early days for the 5G private-network opportunity, but vendors, regulators and standards bodies have preparations in place," senior Gartner researcher Sylvain Fabre said in a release. 

5G ubiquity is still pretty far away, but networks are starting to sprout up all around the world. The next-generation technology promises super fast mobile speeds, and it's poised to boost areas like self-driving cars and virtual reality. All four major US carriers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- have turned on their 5G networks, though in limited areas so far, and more 5G-capable devices are set to launch this year. 

Gartner estimates 7% of providers have deployed 5G network infrastructure so far, and projects that overall provider investment in 5G networks will double from 6% in 2019 to 12% in 2020. The firm also cautions that to maintain 4G coverage during an extended rollout period from 2019 to 2021, service providers will need to upgrade existing 4G infrastructure.

Otherwise, "a less robust 4G legacy layer adjoining 5G cells could lead to real or perceived performance issues as users move from 5G to 4G/LTE Advanced Pro," Fabre said.

By 2021, Gartner projects, 5G infrastructure revenues will climb to $6.8 billion. 

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