*Experts debate the promise and realisation of a revolution in the making
5G is the first network designed for man and machine alike, at the same time. If one were to encapsulate the 10th Huawei Global Broad Band Mobile Forum 2019 staged with the usual fanfare here, it lay in the wisdom reinforced by Ryan Ding, Executive Director of the Board and President of Carrier BG, Huawei, who drove home that “the best way to predict your future is to create it”.
The stakeholders seemed in sync and enlightened the excited audience over the two-day forum that concluded on Wednesday on the progress of 5G technology and the challenges in the way of implementing the most exciting next phase.
Taking the opportunity, Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu urged the mobile industry, authorities and enterprises to collaborate to create an environment to accelerate the next stage of 5G development.
This year’s event is focusing on the future of mobile connectivity, from the introduction of 5G, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud-based virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Vehicles, and robotics.
Hu was sanguine about the success of early deployments of 5G disclosing that 40 operators in more than 20 countries had launched 5G services as of mid-October. The sgtandards were finalised last year. He noted rapid consumer adoption and increased data usage, supported by a plethora of device launches.
But he also underlined the need to ring in a switch in mindset to drive the next phase of development, which he said was needed “not just for vendors and carriers but also for regulators”.
“To make the most from 5G we have to work together to meet some real challenges: spectrum; site resource; and cross-industry collaboration,” Hu emphasised.
A “better, affordable spectrum”, he said was necessary, including flexible pricing models and incentives for operators, which would lower initial capex and enable them to provide a higher standard of services.
Hu also touched on the importance of regulation to improve provisioning of network equipment.
Although much of the talk related to early 5G successes have centred on consumer adoption, Hu said there had also been many early industrial deployments. To realise further growth in this area, he called for cross-industry collaboration to explore what works and what doesn’t in terms of business cases and ultimately enabling 5G to meet its full potential.
He underlined the fact that 5G was not simply faster 4G. “It will play a completely different role in our lives, so as an industry, we all need to have a fresh mindset to drive its future development," Hu said.
Spurt in 5G use
South Korea is a fine example of how 5G has seen a supercharged user experience. The first market to launch a commercial 5G network in April this year, it has seen local carriers sign up more than 3.5 million 5G subscribers in less than six months. Much of this growth can be attributed to new services like 5G-powered AR/VR and live 360º HD sports broadcasting. With these services alone, data consumption among early 5G adopters has shot up by a factor of three, up to 1.3 gigabytes per month!
But this is not merely one vertical rise; carriers are seeing more revenue streams as well. For example, South Korean carrier LG U+ released 5G-powered VR/AR services as part of their premium data plans. In just three months following the 5G launch, their proportion of premium subscribers grew from 3.1% to 5.3%.
It is already evident that industries are deriving new value from the first round of industrial 5G applications. Hu said even though it can’t be said for certain what type of applications could be seen in the future, it's was beyond doubt that every single industry would benefit from 5G technology.
Outlook for spectrum and sites
Hu noted that spectrum resources, specifically the cost and availability of spectrum, are one of the most significant barriers that carriers face moving forward. "We hope governments can provide more spectrum resources to carriers and consider more flexible pricing models. This will reduce the initial CAPEX burden on carriers as they rollout their 5G networks."
Hu also recommended that governments start actively planning to meet new spectrum demand over the next five to ten years, noting that 6GHz spectrum bands are a good starting point.
"Our industry also needs more support for site resources," Hu continued. "Costs are still too high, and site availability always falls short of demand. Regulators should step up and improve the situation by opening up more public infrastructure for sharing and providing guidance on site construction."
In Shanghai, for instance, the city government has set standards for multi-functional utility poles. By the end of 2020, they will install these poles along 500 kilometers of public roads, which will be used to support 30,000 additional 5G sites. That's 75% increase on the total number of mobile base stations currently built throughout the city.
In Europe, the government is working directly with carriers to identify co-use requirements for 5G sites and other forms of public infrastructure (such as traffic lights, signs, and bus stops) to drive down costs for everyone through infrastructure sharing.
In a studied endeavour for cross-sector innovation and greater regional collaboration, Huawei opened its first 5G Joint Innovation Center for Europe in Zurich. The center is a joint effort between Huawei and Sunrise. It will serve as an innovation platform that helps European companies come together across sectors and develop industry-specific 5G solutions.
“Every country has its own economic strengths. These are the areas we can focus on and combine 5G technology with industry-specific solutions to enhance each country's competitiveness,” Hu concluded.
The 10th edition of Mobile Broadband Forum brought together more than 1,500 representatives from carriers, vertical industries, equipment manufacturers, standards organisations, analyst firms, and the media. The exhibition hall showcased 5G technology, commercial solutions, and a rich array of 5G applications for individual consumers, households, and businesses, including 5G-powered cloud AR/VR, 8K broadcasting, cloud gaming, machine vision, and 5G-powered remote-control solutions.
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