5G went live across six cities in the UK at the end of May, with a limited area roll-out by network operator EE. 5G-supported devices so far include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Oppo Reno 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ.
Users of Huawei devices were not enabled to join the party, following the ongoing political and legal battle between the Chinese telecom equipment provider and the US government. In the long-term, writes Jeremy Cowan, gigabit download speeds are being touted. For now though, reports suggest only a fraction of that is being achieved.
Commenting on the development, Leigh Moody, UK managing director at SOTI said, “In a world that becomes more connected by the minute and reliant on the infrastructure that permits that connectivity, the news that EE’s 5G network has now gone live in six UK cities is extremely exciting for UK business. Mobile is about to get faster, smoother and better with 5G.”
It’s not just about speed
“It is a more capable cellular standard that has positive implications for the Internet of Things (IoT). As the demand for data increases, 5G mobile networks are set to take on a support role by connecting elements of almost every business, allowing enterprises to offer new and better services, and shape new business models,” Moody added.
“Of course, the 5G rollout will bring challenges, not least to companies that will have to upgrade existing infrastructures to get the benefits. As connections proliferate and ever more data crosses digital boundaries, businesses must respond to increasingly strict regulation that ensures the safety and privacy of that data. This requires businesses to build a comprehensive overview of their own IoT and safeguard data accordingly (a process that can differ substantially from that required to secure ‘ordinary’ data).”
In particular, Moody felt that businesses must differentiate customer and business data carefully. The direction of travel is clearly for them to operate through mobile-first technology, and the advent of 5G will, “greatly enhance the quality of service and opportunities this provides. Savvy enterprises are already strategising their use of IoT in the 5G era and acting upon those plans,” added SOTI’s managing director.
Commenting on the network operators, Angela Logothetis, CTO, Open Network Division, Amdocs, said, “The hype around 5G has been matched by a high level of investment by mobile operators. We’re now seeing the first live networks being made available to consumers with EE’s 5G network. EE will now be exploring if they can run multiple networks for specific use cases – from health to manufacturing, logistics, connected vehicles and consumer connectivity.
“Network slicing, using dedicated virtual networks with functionality specific to the service or customer over a common network infrastructure, will play a critical role in this. It enables operators to meet the needs of different vertical services, create new business models and generate new revenue streams. It will be crucial to ensure that operators can generate the revenue to allow them to continue their 5G network expansion,” said Logothetis.
Voda follows soon
Zoran Vasiljev, CEO of Apigate pointed out, Vodafone is not far behind, turning on its 5G service in the UK from July. However, the continued roll out of 5G into other parts of the country is reliant on operators successfully generating revenue from their new networks, across the consumer and business markets. This could, he said, initially be a challenge considering subscribers need to invest in new 5G-compatible handsets, which are limited and costly.
“Operators must open up their networks to new partners that can help them expand into innovative lines of business, ensuring they do not simply become bit pipes for other companies’ services. With verticals such as automotive, healthcare, media and gaming looking to reap the benefits of 5G, partnering with businesses in these sectors is a sure way to help operators generate a return on investment. By using open source technology, operators can open up their networks to third parties, such as cloud service providers, mobile applications and developers, to reach new customers and access new revenue streams beyond the standard connectivity pipe.”
4G has yet to unlock some revenues
“5G will undoubtably unlock a range of exciting new consumer and business use cases,” said Ingo Flömer, VP of Business Development and Technology, Cobham Wireless. However, he believed the new connectivity standard fails to address a more pressing problem: the lack of reliable mobile connectivity in many under-connected areas of the UK.
“Not-spots’ don’t only exist in villages and rural areas of the country; getting 4G mobile coverage is still a massive challenge for subscribers on major over ground rail routes, transport tunnels, and in infrastructure like sports stadiums, airports and music venues. 5G might present lucrative business and consumer cases, yet there’s a lot of revenue still to be unlocked by deploying 4G. In-stadium services to enhance the fan experience, for example, or ad-supported media and entertainment mobile streaming on commuter trains.
“There will come a time when blanket 5G coverage is needed,” Flömer concluded, “but more important is the necessity for adequate 4G mobile coverage now, to guarantee quality of service for consumers, and support business and operator growth, in all areas in the UK.”
The author is Jeremy Cowan, editorial director of IoT Now