Hype around 5G is giving way to sober but positive assessments of growing market impact
The subject of 5G (or 5th generation mobile communications) has never been far from the headlines this year. In January it was the talk of the show in Las Vegas at CES 2018. Then Axios claimed a scoop with memos from the Trump administration purporting to say that nationalisation of the USA’s 5G networks was being considered, before the hype grew again at MWC18 in Barcelona.
Axios quoted a PowerPoint slide deck obtained from an unnamed US National Security Council official that said, “a single centralized network is what’s required to protect America against China and other bad actors.” In reality, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are already investing heavily in this area.
In China itself last week, Huawei‘s rotating chairman, Eric Xu poured cold water on recent 5G hysteria. He told the company’s annual analyst meeting in Shenzhen, “We do have expectations of 5G, but maybe those expectations are not as big as some people might think. 5G is just one product line at Huawei. It is just a natural evolution of the technology from 2G to 3G to 4G and now 5G.”
Xu added that until at least 2019 5G will mainly be used in densely populated areas with inadequate network coverage or to meet consumers’ growing bandwidth demand.
Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology see commercial possibilities more than security demands in the technology. The Sweden-based network equipment and software provider has teamed up with the leading German academic institute to explore and develop 5G’s industrial applications. The first use case for production of jet engine components for MTU Aero Engines is currently being evaluated and is being presented this week (April 23-27) at the Hanover Fair in Germany.
Maltese network operator Melita is to use the Ericsson Radio System (ERS), while modernising and expanding the virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) which is deployed on Ericsson BSP 8100 and Ericsson Cloud Execution Environment. This will give Melita the flexibility to meet a growing demand for new 5G and IoT use cases. ERS is said to enable operators to address growth opportunities and transform their radio networks by leveraging a multi-standard, multi-band, and multi-layer architecture, delivering industry-leading performance on the smallest site footprint with the lowest energy consumption.
Meanwhile, rival Nokia has reported an agreement with NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s largest mobile operator, to supply 5G baseband products that are to be deployed in a 5G mobile network. Nokia is supplying its commercially available AirScale Radio platform including antenna and baseband.
“5G will co-exist with 4G/LTE for some time to come,” according to Jane Rygaard, head of 5G Marketing. “Nokia’s 5G acceleration services offer will help operators plan for their network transformation (for example, virtualisation or capacity planning) and business transformation, including addressing new markets.”
(Watch out for tomorrow’s interview with Nokia’s Jane Rygaard about the Finland-based company’s work with NTT DOCOMO of Japan.)
5G reality check
Adrian Baschnonga, EY lead telecommunications analyst, told VanillaPlus: “With large-scale roll-outs expected from 2020, 5G is no longer a faraway vision. As we move into a period of substantial testing and trials worldwide, industry dialogue is shifting beyond the strategic vision for 5G and towards the operational realities.
“With the first wave of standardisation work now complete, new challenges are coming to the fore. Operators and vendors alike recognise that the nuts and bolts of network planning require attention if 5G is to hit the ground running in two years’ time.
“Business models remain a fluid talking point,” Baschnonga concluded. “Historically, 5G’s role in the Internet of Things has been top of mind, but with mobile tech featuring prominently at major sporting events, use cases that combine content and connectivity are now also moving into focus.”