5G: Turning challenge into opportunity

5G is set to account for more than 1.2 billion connections by 2025[1], presenting significant revenue growth potential for operators and allowing them to generate new revenue streams from the enterprise sector through use cases that require greater bandwidth. The industry has been quick to recognise the potential of this technology: at the time of writing more than 50 global operators across 20 countries have launched 5G services, according to recent research by Analysys Mason. These deployments typically utilise the 3.5GHz radio-frequency spectrum, which offers better coverage and increased capacity compared to previous generations. Unlike 5G’s predecessors – such as 4G that uses sub-3GHz – the 3.5GHz spectrum offers much higher bandwidth capacity, to ensure endpoints – whether subscribers or devices – stay seamlessly connected regardless of the amount of bandwidth they need. But deploying 5G is not without its challenges. These can be divided into two categories: capex associated with rollout, and building the appropriate business model. Capex associated with densification of sites High spectrum costs are a huge challenge for operators, not just in the EU but also globally. However, alongside rising spectrum costs, initial infrastructure costs are higher for 5G. It is now widely accepted that 5G needs greater densification of cell sites, especially in urban areas. Densification is essential for providing high system capacity and supporting high per-user data rates – keeping endpoints always connected and ensuring a consistent quality of service. This means more base stations and associated infrastructure, resulting in huge CAPEX costs for operators. The answer? Platform transformation through virtualisation. Operators that have placed virtualisation at their business core are set to benefit from 5G the most. Virtualisation and digital transformation have been buzz words within the telecoms industry for the last five years, and it’s not hard to see why. BICS’ Virtual Transport Network gives operators in need of increased capacity the flexibility of owning a network at a fraction of the cost, without losing operational control. By virtualising services, operators do not need to invest in costly infrastructure, and they can deploy new services much faster. Without virtualisation, operators left behind will depend on proprietary hardware from network suppliers, which is often expensive and complex, and requires specific skill sets to configure, so they take much longer to set up. Operators that are already on the path to virtualisation or indeed are already there, can go to market much quicker with new services such as 5G. Aligning with enterprise use cases To build a sustainable 5G-based business stream, operators need to fulfil the use cases that will benefit most from this technology. The first phase of 5G covering 2019 to 2022 leverages non-standalone 5G to enable faster 5G deployment, while waiting for standalone specifications and guidelines to be completed. The most familiar non-standalone use cases to date include those that require a wider bandwidth for high data speeds, such as enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access, like virtual reality, for example. In-vehicle entertainment is another popular use case, and Germany has gone a step further and allocated a huge 100GHz spectrum for industry, to provide sufficient bandwidth for 5G services embedded in globally connected cars. Standalone 5G is where we are likely to see the most significant growth in use cases and overall deployment numbers. With standalone specifications and guidelines to be agreed later this year – COVID-19 dependent – the second 5G phase will entail more activity and complex use cases, including remote surgery! With more than 20 years’ worth of telecoms expertise ranging from capacity solutions to IoT connectivity, BICS is the ideal partner for your 5G deployment. Enabling the global mobility of more than 150 million connected devices via multi-network connectivity, and coverage spanning more than 200 countries, BICS is in a unique position to understand which industries and verticals can benefit from 5G and tailor the 5G offering accordingly. Operators must align with enterprise demand to ensure a successful 5G business case whether they leverage non-standalone or standalone 5G services. What’s next for 5G? By proactively addressing the hurdles associated with rollout and business case development, operators can place themselves in the best possible position to make 5G a success for them and their customers. The future of 5G looks promising. According to Analysys Mason, the next big deployment market to watch is Japan, as the country gears up for the 2021 games. BICS is currently supporting a number of global 5G roaming service deployments, including the Tokyo games, offering unrivalled coverage and quality to customers. If you are looking to deploy 5G, contact BICS to learn how we can help to enhance your subscriber services and keep up with growing customer demand.
[1] https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/technology/understanding-5g/5g-innovation/