The importance of early 5G activity - the analyst’s view
In my first blog of the series, I wrote about how AirScale is changing the way networks are built. Now, it’s time to get an analyst’s view on the matter.
Analysts enjoy a wide-angle view of our industry which often reveals key business and technology aspects that operators and other industry players may find hard to pick out. Nobody tells it straight like an analyst can. So it was my pleasure recently to connect with Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst at 451 Research, for a chat about 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) and what it all means for operators.
Ken paints a colorful picture of future opportunities, from 3D holographic visualization to entertain consumers, to a substantial ramping up of factory floor automation, to extending high quality healthcare to remote regions that lack medical expertise.
Yet, as always, opportunities come with challenges. One, Ken identifies, is the need to find new ways for existing radio network sites to accommodate additional radio infrastructure as new technologies and more spectrum come online. Multi-band radio and Single RAN solutions go a long way towards addressing this issue. But he’s concerned that new frequency bands may mean new antenna equipment at cell sites.
Then there is the potential for new players to enter the market, he explains. “5G is not a mobile-only network. We already see some operators trialling 5G with an eye on becoming fixed service providers, and equally there is an opportunity for new players to come in and compete against mobile operators.”
Plus, much of 5G is still taking shape through the standards process. “5G will appear in networks in waves. The early waves we understand well; later waves are still a work in progress. The challenge for operators is to understand how the technology is evolving and developing effective strategies to pull those capabilities into their portfolio.”
Advocating the importance of licensed spectrum
Our conversation then turned to how operators can tackle the challenges; what early steps do they need to be taking? Ken puts three items at the top of operators’ must-do-today lists:
- Gain experience with LTE-Advanced Pro, the 3GPP Releases 13-14 that bring major advances in LTE technology to address the IoT and public safety markets.
- Operators, especially in competitive markets, need to take advantage of trial opportunities with early implementations to enable them to evaluate and gain experience of the capabilities.
- Engage with other industries to educate vertical sectors about coming 5G capabilities and the advantages of licensed spectrum.
As Ken points out: “LTE-Advanced Pro is not just another LTE release, it is a wonderful pivot point for bringing in new capabilities. It’s a very important first step on the path to deploying 5G and provides a vital touchpoint for early engagement of vertical industries in IoT. Today there is an early ramp up of activity based on unlicensed spectrum and many businesses will ask if this is good enough. Operators have to show why the licensed spectrum they manage is a better answer for important industrial and medical applications”.
“Operators need to be fast to capture the customer mindshare now.”
The importance of Nokia AirScale and the cloud
“Nokia Airscale represents an architectural approach that can carry operators into the future. Importantly, AirScale provides the foundation. It works side-by-side with existing networks and does not make legacy infrastructure obsolete. It enables operators to take the first step to future 5G networks.”
He also points out that AirScale addresses the vision of the telco cloud as an important part of 5G. The cloud-based AirScale makes resources for new functions available within minutes instead of the months that conventional networks need. “In terms of ROI and service velocity, which is the ability to quickly introduce a variety of service offerings tailored to different needs, these may be the most exciting aspects of the coming transformation,” he concludes.
So there you have it – an expert analyst’s view of what operators need to be doing today to stay ahead in the race to 5G and IoT.
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