December 16, 2019
By Jan Miszalowski, Principal Consultant
We have seen UK Mobile Network Operators (MNO) launch 5G networks in 2019, building on 4G networks, rather than representing a complete departure. Their initial target is Cities, with subscribers paying for connectivity to a ‘5G’ network offering higher speeds compared with 4G. MNO’s as expected are taking an evolutionary approach to infrastructure investment. But this new technology promises a lot more, the dramatic shift bringing with it significantly higher speeds, lower latency and greater impact across multiple sectors and devices that can be connected. Through supporting a multitude of requirements for use cases and potential for widespread adoption of IoT, with many devices connected, 5G should be turning the MNO subscriber led model on its head. Everyone should benefit from this new technology, with the use case driving the requirement, enabling applications such as health care, education, energy, transportation and enabling service delivery in the most remote, isolated, vulnerable areas of the UK. There is also a real potential for this new technology to deliver the required broadband connectivity in remote areas as new spectrum and leasing arrangements offer greater bandwidth, with speed performance striving to match fixed line connections.
The above will place emphasis on nationwide, affordable, high speed and resilient networks to ensure that the UK population benefits from this emerging technology. Network upgrades to 4G will no longer suffice, with operators also needing to build new macro sites or small cells, in both urban and more rural areas. This in turn will place emphasis on deeper penetration of fibre connectivity for supporting capacity and latency requirements for 5G and to support small-cell deployment.
A collaborative approach is required to ensure that this significant new enabling infrastructure build-out is achieved. Mobile operators will need to develop strategies for 5G to cope with this expected growth in demand and required build out costs. Measures will involve cost-saving efforts, but more alternative approaches will need to be explored, such as network sharing and new revenue models. UK Government must commit to targets, enable funds, drive forward a policy that can resolve industry barriers. Local Government, industry, academia and general public must understand how they can benefit and use this new technology, drive adoption and use cases and enable fast and efficient build out in their respective areas.
If the promise is real, then everyone should play a part in the realisation of ‘5G’, rather than wait on a market determining what this new technology will bring.