Call to arms in the lucrative 5G applications market
We hear a lot about edge networking in the data centre space these days and telcos, of course, are very much part of that equation. But what about the applications and services at the front end of the business?
In the first of a new monthly series of ‘Operator View’ articles by freelance telecoms writer, Antony Savvas reports that the GSMA has recently focused on making sure the telecoms industry is in prime position to support a potentially major part of the mobile edge market, and that’s Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
The GSMA Cloud AR/VR Forum will focus on the development of technologies, services and support in this space, and is backed by the likes of China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corp., NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Telefónica, Telenor, TIM, Turkcell and Vodafone. In addition, infrastructure and device partners Huawei and HTC are weighing in with their support.
The fundamental aim is to encourage all parties to collaborate on accelerating the delivery and deployment of 5G cloud-based AR/VR services, which may well appear in earnest from next year.
“Both VR and AR are disruptive forms of immersive multimedia that, combined with operator edge cloud and 5G connectivity, will transform the cost structures of the enterprise and entertainment fields,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer, GSMA.
“Mobile operators will play a key role in their development, but without a common approach and industry-wide collaboration we risk fragmenting the market from the beginning. The establishment of this forum will overcome this hurdle and ensure we can scale compelling solutions faster.”
It’s a chance for the industry to make sure it is not blind-sided by newer kids on the block when delivering potentially profitable content and services, and must be enthusiastically supported.
These types of new technologies will clearly benefit from the latest 5G deployment predictions just released from Ericsson. Its research says 5G is set to be the fastest cellular roll-out ever, and it will be hungry for new applications people can use on their new gadgets.
The Ericsson 2018 Mobility Report predicts over 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions covering more than 40% of the global population by 2024. North America and North East Asia (including Japan, China and South Korea) are expected to lead the 5G uptake.
In North America, 5G subscriptions are forecast to account for 55% of total mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024. In North East Asia, the corresponding figure is 43%.
In Western Europe, the 5G forecast is a more modest 30% of total mobile subscriptions by the end of 2024. The highly competitive nature of the European operator space and EU legislation over roaming charges could be contributing to Western Europe’s slow adoption.
But with overall huge revenue growth opportunities for 5G, operators and businesses will need to act quickly or risk losing out.
Speaking of losing out, that may well apply to some vendors of routing/switching software used by carriers and service providers, after Cisco acquired a key UK-based provider of network software in November.
Cisco snapped up Ensoft whose last recorded revenue was a modest £10 million (€11.3 million). But more importantly, it has brought a pool of around 70 talented engineers into its ranks, some of whom were responsible for developing Cisco’s important IOS XR operating system.
The move is expected to deprive rival router and switch manufacturers of their services in a very competitive market, not just for sales, but for talent.
And this when the networking and telecoms industry is becoming much more software-driven. Other telecom equipment makers will no doubt be left wondering why they didn’t make the move.
The author is freelance telecoms writer, Antony Savvas.