Access to spectrum in the 3.6GHz band supports telcos’ rollout of 5G services. The long-term evolution path is addressed this July at Australia’s only dedicated 5G Business Summit being held 23-25 July in Sydney.
According a keynote speaker, Latif Ladid, chair of the Brussels-based 5G World Alliance, 5G is a critical building block of the digital society. “This will generate a new wave of enhanced services, ranging from driverless cars to smart home appliances. The mobile broadband download rates will be up to 60 times faster than what is available from the current 4G providers.”
The challenge is ensuring 5G networks are faster, always accessible, highly reliable and efficient in handling a large number of devices. These include smart objects in the internet of things.
Tackling the uncertainties of 5G
More broadly, 5G is more than a buzzword to describe next-generation internet speeds. “There are several uncertainties associated with developing this technology,” adds Ladid.
Moreover, many key aspects of 5G suffer from a lack of a common definition and the necessary service characteristics. There’re also insufficient standards or specifications, and satisfactory access to radio spectrum.
By 2020, analysts estimate there will be more than 20 billion installed IoT devices globally, also generating massive volumes of data. “With access to this kind of information, industries of all kinds will reach new levels of efficiency as they add products, services, and capabilities.”
Opportunities for mobile operators
Increasingly, network equipment vendors are pushing mobile operators to start evolving their long-term evolution (LTE) networks toward 5G.
“This is well in advance of the technology being concretely defined,” says Ladid. “It’s not hard to see the forces motivating vendors to try to direct widespread operator interest in 5G toward near-term purchases.”
The global lull between 4G and 5G spending waves hasn’t been easy for operators, carriers or equipment manufacturers. “Engaging with operators on these intermediate steps – while communicating a long-term evolution path – could help vendors shore up 5G market share early.”
Overcoming barriers to adoption
Barriers to adopting 5G incorporate management buy-in, the massive and expensive investments in spectrum and 5G networks, as well as concerns around data security and privacy.
Moreover, a lack of consistent standards, and the challenges of end-to-end implementation may influence the uptake of 5G.
Experts observe the focus on 5G has changed dramatically. “It’s seen as a technology to use rather than one that disrupts. Trials of 5G use cases starting in 2018, and wider deployment of top use cases by 2021, are a good indication of a commitment to the technology.”
Faster data speeds, lower latency and increased bandwidth remain the core focus. This enables operators to give their customers the “first-mover advantage.”
But operators must demonstrate they understand the core industry issues, challenges and potential use cases for 5G. This combines with the impact they have on time-to-market for any given industry sector.
From trials to full-scale deployment
Alessandro Gropelli, director of communications with the Brussels-based European Telecommunication Network Operators' Association, says opportunities will emerge from engaging with new industrial sectors.
These range from automotive to manufacturing and healthcare. “In some countries, we will experience commercial trials very soon. In Europe, we expect some trials in Helsinki, Tallin and Stockholm before the end of the year.”
Mobile-only operators see a trend where fixed-mobile integration becomes more pervasive. This is marked by an increased investment pace for 5G.
The future requires support from strong, global companies. “In some geographies, such as Europe, the industry is still very fragmented. We need sustainable competition and market structures that are fit for higher levels of CapEx as well as stronger R&D.”
However, regulation remains a major concern. “Think of retail price regulation or obligations regarding access to fixed networks, even new networks such as FTTH,” says Gropelli. “This often holds investors from allowing European telcos to inject more CapEx into roll-out projects.”
Moreover, when it comes to IoT and other digital services, there are concerns linked to very stringent data or service rules. “5G and IoT would benefit from a more innovative and investment-friendly approach to policy and regulation.”
Industry bodies are doubling efforts to ensure governments and regulators align regulation with their high-level 5G objectives.
“We cannot say we want 5G everywhere and then fail to improve spectrum policy or fail to give enough regulatory certainty to investors.”
Share insights from 30+ industry experts into the future of 5G at Australia’s only dedicated 5G Business Summit being held 23-25 July in Sydney.