5G World 2017 was packed full of insights from across the ecosystem into 5G developments. As we move ever closer to 2020 and the proposed commercial launch of 5G networks, what are some of the key themes everyone is talking about?
One clear message from 5G World is that 5G develop as an evolution of 4G. Operators are focusing on developing and upgrading their 4G networks and building in new services as part of their preparation to launch 5G.
CEO of BT Technology and CIO of BT Group, Howard Watson began his keynote with a look at the present and developments we are seeing today in 4G networks. He believes "5G will have a lot to live up to by the time we have fully enhanced our 4G networks."
Another keynote speaker, John Baker, SVP Business Development at Mavenir spoke on thinking disruptively when developing 5G. He stressed that much of the development of 5G networks will take place now using 4G to prepare for 5G. "We are demonstrating today that you can build 4G networks ready for 5G architecture."
The Business Case for 5G
Another key area of discussion was how to make 5G networks profitable. Berit Svendsen, CEO of Telenor Norway emphasised that operators need to first establish their business and use cases for the next generation mobile network. “The whole telco industry needs to increase revenue going forward. We are already in trouble because there have been no increases in revenue for many years. We have been lucky in Norway as we have been able to monetise the mobile side, and this is a good reason to defend current and future investments. This is now a necessity going forward by finding good use cases to monetise 5G. If not, it will take a long time.”
User demand driven development
Keynote speakers on the second day of 5G World 2017 agreed that the nature of 5G will be determined by user demand.
Howard Watson, CEO of BT Technology spoke about BT’s strategy for 5G: “It is about understanding customer needs in terms of an end-to-end experience, and not just about what those single technologies can deliver.”
The development of a strong regulatory framework was also a priority for many of our speakers. EE CEO Marc Allera finished up his keynote presentation on the TechXLR8 headline stage by looking back on the launch of 4G. At this time the UK was in 45th position in terms of its mobile network service, ranked behind countries such as Armenia and Azerbaijan. “Do we want to be the 45th country to launch 5G?” Allera asked. He wants the opportunity for the UK to be first, but this will require the right regulatory framework, ambition and a clear focus on what customers need.
Fixed Wireless Access
We heard from Hossein Moiin, EVP and CTO at Nokia about the existing problems 5G will be designed to solve, namely in economics, new user demands and physical limitations. One solution was fixed wireless: "5G fixed wireless access overcomes a number of challenges" because it delivers a fibre-like experience and has very low latency. Moiin emphasised that fixed wireless access’ “time has come.”
5G Network Security
KPN CISO Jaya Baloo's session came with a great deal of warnings over the dangers to be aware of and the steps the industry must take to ensure secure 5G networks. She called for the industry to take far more action in this area.
Looking at 5G use cases and the security issues that may arise from these, IoT was a major focus of her keynote. "We know that we're going to have all these devices deployed on this infrastructure (IoT) ... you won't be able to buy a dumb toaster in under 5 years... but you can't currently secure IoT devices and there are huge risks here."
She emphasised that in the development of 5G, the industry needs to keep the ways in which the new networks will be used firmly in mind. "I wonder if we as a community are taking these use cases enough into account in terms of our roles in 5G."
Many of our speakers were very keen to implement network slicing as a way to limit issues of demand peaks. Howard Watson, CEO of BT Technology told us BT are “looking at how we can use specific slices across the core network to ring fence them for particular activities. For example, in the future we can see how the emergency services network could expand. One of the use cases is to ensure you have a slice for that. If you see a high peak demand from normal consumers, you don’t let that congestion affect that part of the network.”
In the 5G World Demo Zone, attendees could see the implications of network slicing in practice. Nokia, for example, demonstrated network slicing to enable a public safety network in their 5G Connected Stadium.
“Not just another G”
For the first time this year, 5G World formed part of TechXLR8, London Tech Week’s headline expo. This gave attendees access to the exhibitions, demo zones and show floor sessions of 7 other tech events focussed on everything from IoT to AI to connected cars. This really put into perspective the impact of many technologies 5G will enable to bring about a more connected world.
After so many years of talking about 5G and beginning to do trials, Intel’s Eric Levander said it is great to finally see it start to take shape. Intel were demonstrating their VR technology here 5G World and he was excited to see this and many other use cases of 5G develop. He emphasised that whilst previous generations have had narrower goals, "5G is so much more than just another G. It's not just about personal productivity, this is about everything else."
Looking to the future of 5G, EE CEO Marc Allera outlined two applications where the next generation could really be transformative. The first was healthcare. 5G could bring about huge advancements in connected health in terms of health apps and wearables. Using these will keep people in better shape and could potentially save our health service a lot of money. But there are many more possible uses. “With zero latency could we see a surgeon in the UK operate on people in other countries? Maybe.”
Allera also pointed to Connected Cars as a transformative use of 5G networks. Whilst these vehicles will not rely on connection to a mobile network, “5G will make them safer,” by enabling advanced real-time communication of information.
Use cases of 5G are clearly a priority for the European telecoms industry. Orange’s Director of Technical Strategy, Yves Bellego emphasised this in his analysis of 5G development across the world. “The goal in Europe is to address all use cases for 5G. We have seen in the US the focus for 5G is being put on using the network for fixed wireless access and in Asia for enhanced mobile broadband. In Europe, the target is all use cases, from connected car, connected home and so on.”
Learn more about how these themes are developing in the Asia market at our next event, 5G Asia in Singapore. Download the agenda here.