5G World speakers ask: what’s the point of 5G?

5G world 2017 Salvatori

Keynote speakers at 5G World 2017 focused on exploring use-cases and likely return on the massive investment that the roll out of 5G will entail.

The session was introduced by Adrian Scrase, CTO of ETSI who queried why operators are so desperate to speed up the 5G standardization process. “What are the new revenue streams 5G will enable?” he asked.

Uwe Janssen, VP of innovation and research at DT observed that network traffic per user doubles every two years, so that alone is a technological issue that needs addressing. He was quite open in bemoaning what he sees as a lack of innovation among the big networking vendors, especially in areas like telco-grade datacenters and RAN. He noted that DT is increasingly taking matters into it own hands via collaborations with other operators, such as AT&T and even new networking players such as Facebook.

Warming to the theme of consensus Janssen moved on to NB-IoT and the IoT opportunity, stressing that it could be thought of as a network slice but there needs to be global agreement on what a network slice actually is in order to be able to offer global solutions to the vertical industries expected to pay for the privilege of having a slide of the network devoted to their specific needs. He concluded by warning that we’re still quite a way from achieving multi-vendor, interoperable NFV solutions.

We then heard from Enrico Salvatori. President of Qualcomm EMEA (pictured), who started by referring to a recent survey his company conducted that revealed 80-90% of respondents expect a bunch of new industries, services and general opportunities to be created, that will amount to around $12 trillion of lovely new business by 2035.

Salvatori observed that for 5G to be able to deliver all this it needs to provide: higher speeds, improved reliability, lower latency and lower cost per bit. Announcing “Gigabit LTE is essential to the 5G mobile experience,” he deftly moved on to the Qualcomm X16 modem, which already offers just that!

There was also a name-drop for the X50 modem family, first announced at MWC this year, that Qualcomm claims will be the first 5G modem. Asked by how he can make such a claim when the 5G standard has yet to be defined, Salvatori conceded that Qualcomm is making a calculated bet on the final standard and that any teaks needed between now and its introduction to the market in late 2019 should be possible via software.

The general impression from the first round of keynotes at 5G World 2017 is of an industry still holding its breath for the next big mobile era, but still trying to work out exactly how to go about it and where the ROI is going to come from. In their haste to get there operators are increasingly taking matters into their own hands, which should be cause for concern at the big network vendors.

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