The 5G Era will bring boundless connectivity and intelligent automation

Henry Calvert, Senior Director  Head of Network 2020

Mobile technology’s effect on society will get dramatically more beneficial if we allow 5G’s abundant connectivity and intelligence to improve the world, argues Henry Calvert, Senior Director, Head of Network 2020, GSMA. Our challenge is to create the right conditions through global co-operation over standards.

While those in the industry know that empowering machines to communicate without human intervention can create a near-endless array of automated services, these benefits have to be communicated to the public. The term 5G should be associated with an era which delivers safer, more efficient and affordable transport networks and stronger connections. For example, better communications between patients and doctors could then raise public health standards all over the globe.

While previous generations of technology have help alleviate poverty in the developing world, the signature benefits in the 5G era may be far wider reaching. Our report into the 5G era outlines why global cooperation is needed before 5G can deliver its immense benefits by digitising economies and societies.

There is a caveat. Each new service and seamless connection will eat into our finite spectrum resources. The preservation of this precious entity depends on global cooperation. The success of 5G also depends on the adoption of common global standards so that we can all benefit from 5G.

The challenge – which involves a natural resource running out and the need for coordinated global efforts to save it – could provide an opportunity for the mobile industry to show the world how collaboration and unity of purpose can optimise all precious resources.

Industry cooperation
We worked with members and players across the ecosystem to help define the technologies, identify the spectrum bands and develop business models and policy to bring 5G to life. We identified five mobile industry goals for the 5G era:

1.    Boundless connectivity for all
2.    Innovative delivery of new networks with optimal economics
3.    Accelerated connection and digital transformation of industry verticals
4.    A transformed mobile broadband experience
5.    Drive growth in new use cases for massive IoT and critical communications services

The mobile industry cannot achieve these goals without unifying around a common technology standard and a set of harmonised 5G spectrum bands. If the goals are achieved, the next job is to find new models for rolling out 5G cost-effectively and generating new revenues.

Initially 5G networks will complement the existing mobile broadband experience. New use cases, linked to massive IoT and critical communications, will follow as operators strike new seams of revenue in key verticals. The GSMA estimates that by 2025, 5G broadband connections will reach 1.1 billion – 12% of total mobile connections – giving operators revenues reaching $1.3 trillion.

All stakeholders need to recognise that benefits should be as universally enjoyed as possible, once rewards for investment and risk have been shared. The dream of a universal 5G could be realized as it is the first mobile technology to be developed within an achievable target of ubiquitous internet access. Currently 60% of the world’s population is covered by 4G networks and at the last count 2.5 billion people were enjoying 3G or 4G networks and services.

It is our view that boundless connectivity is dependent on the harmonised use of multi-access network infrastructure in three major scenarios of usage: indoors, outdoors in town or outdoors in the countryside. While the discipline is the same across all three, our report highlights how the equipment changes and the inherent compatibility challenges those changes create. Indoor 5G macro and small cells might run on low-frequency bands, high-frequency bands or fixed wireless access units. These must be just as integrated as the 5G RANs and low earth orbit satellites used to support the outdoor networks.

The report says 5G can scale rapidly if stakeholders meet five major challenges:

1.    Making the business case
2.    Managing the spectrum
3.    Exploiting each technological improvement and breakthrough
4.    Avoiding the fragmentation mistakes of previous generations
5.    Judicious regulation

After consultation with 750 operator CEOs on their expectations and plans for the 5G era, interviews with 50 senior managers in the industry, discussions with telecoms financial analysts and engaging university research teams, we have released our 10 Insights For The 5G Era as part of this report. We believe that the 5G era could be the most fundamentally exciting era of connectivity yet – it is up to us all to show the leadership need to fulfill its immense potential.

Click Here to download your copy of the 5G Report.