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5G: Just the next wave or a special generation?

5G: Just the next wave or a special generation?

Article by: Chris Lewis

5G is a special generation for mobile. In fact, it’s much more than mobile. The framework of technology must embrace fixed as well as cellular, licensed as well as unlicensed. It is so important to the future of society that a fresh look at spectrum, shared investment and the positioning of services is required. The upside of minimal latency coupled with Gigabit speeds is appealing to the industry. However, setting up the internal, operational systems to allow for a more agile approach to systems and service delivery is essential for all levels.

For the first time in the history of telecoms, we have passed through a point where supply potentially outstrips demand in terms of bandwidth capabilities. Fully functioning 4G alongside enhanced copper and especially fibre-based services, give us an abundance of capacity whatever our personal or business demands. Incremental revenue from 5G direct to the telecoms players may be marginal and the demand emerging from massive IoT, in addition to enhanced Mobile Broadband (MBB) for consumers and businesses are, to say the least, unknown. Hence it is essential to build the optimal system bringing together all the network elements, analytics and service orchestration to allow for the increased demands coming down the line from the explosion of end points and the wealth of new business models that will spring out of this generation of communication services.

Despite very different political and commercial environments, US and Asia are likely to provide the initial springboard for 5G services – interesting that such different political systems end up with the same result. Europe is likely to be a little behind due to the heavier regulation and the more fragmented nature of markets encouraged by the European Commission.

Depending on the individual telecoms player and national circumstances, 5G will initially be an MBB play at the retail level, an operational framework for a vastly more efficient communications engine within the telcos and the basis for a new generation of economic activity. This will bring the telco to a level of respectability in the broader economy having emerged from the cocoon that has been the technology-obsessed telecoms industry. Open APIs, from trouble-ticketing to drone management, will allow all parties in the ecosystem to exploit the benefits of 5G (from core to service) and open up new revenue streams. These will often benefit third parties rather than the telco, but it will cement the role of the telecoms industry in the future digital economy.

In short, 5G calls for a much broader church of thinking, including political, regulatory, industry, technological and user groups as well as the telecoms players themselves. Similar to the Dutch tri-partite agreement between business, unions and government, a degree of compromise is called for in order for all parties to benefit. A start has already been made by the 5GAA and the 5G ACIA formed specifically to address the voices of the automotive and industrial sectors. All markets are being disrupted by digital plays today. The trick for the special generation of telecoms services will be to use the power and flexibility of the 5G technology to support all potential business models, allowing ‘connected everything’ to flourish, rather than trying to predict and constrain the market as has been the case in past generations.