There is lot of coverage in the media about 5G, with vendors and operators fueling the fire, competing to outdo each other's claims for the technology, when they will be in live service, how they are the market leader, and so on. Amid the hyperbole, it's worth taking a step back and asking, once again, why 5G? What is it supposed to do? And how will it help operators help society?
In my view -- and the view of the more progressive operators -- 5G should be about new and transformative business models with potential for massive growth. To secure investment from private and public sources, it is important that the industry articulates the role of 5G in creating new business models -- how it will generate deeper integration between adjacent industrial sectors and, ultimately, how it will contribute to economic growth and societal transformation.
Operators expect to use 5G to extend their business activities beyond communications services -- and certainly beyond the standard mobile broadband services -- to what we can think of as industrial control services. The intent is to use 5G to underpin the "Industrial Internet" and to transform sectors such as transportation, healthcare, robotics, energy, logistics, smart buildings, etc., via 5G connectivity.
To achieve this, the communications industry needs to work closely with these industries (the future customers of 5G services) to determine their specific performance requirements (latency, battery life, reliability, etc.) and build this into technology specifications. For this reason, the current phase of market development and requirements-gathering is critical. Of course, dependencies on external industries add complexity to the process and will absorb significant time and expertise; however, understanding this nexus of market and technology development is critical. It is also probably the biggest challenge in 5G.
Vendors and operators have a key role is shaping what 5G will become -- there are no other actors that are capable are driving a global transformation on this scale that are likely to step up and make the necessary investment -- but not all the burden should be placed on their shoulders. There is also a major role for governments and the ITU process, to ensure regulation allows and encourages innovation.
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.
— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading