opinion


Could the UK be left in the dust in the European race to 5G?

4.5G speed

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece David Fraser, Technical Sales Director – Communication Service Providers at Intel, warns of the dangers to the UK of getting left behind in the 5G era.

While parts of Europe were setting a global standard for connectivity during the rollout of 4G over the last five years, the UK continues to lag behind, with some parts of the UK still lacking reliable mobile coverage.

At 54th in the global 4G network leaderboard, which is worse than Peru, Panama and Romania, some have their doubts that the UK is equipped to successfully roll out 5G in time for the current deadline of 2020, and some are more skeptical still of the benefits the technology would have across the UK. Certainly, there is a long road ahead for the UK, but we’re seeing renewed determination in the telecommunications industry, government and technology leaders to invest in 5G and make sure the country isn’t left behind.

5G means more than faster mobile internet – it means a more stable mobile internet and a more intelligent network. This means that traditionally ‘indoor’ wired and high bandwidth internet tasks, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, will be brought into the outside world and to different types of objects. 5G will give the AI built into autonomous vehicles a stable and intelligent connection that they can reliably see, interpret, decide, and safely act upon everything they encounter on the road. Then there’s the opportunities we don’t know about yet, the ‘killer apps’ that will disrupt industries and drive cultural shifts.

So radical is the change we’re expecting that current network infrastructure must evolve. The complexity of some of the known use cases for 5G, such as autonomous vehicles and drones, is such that they require additional capabilities not currently implemented in today’s networks. The deployment of a more dynamic and intelligent network utilising Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) capabilities works towards reducing latency so that there is a faster response time to users.

In addition this architecture will need to deliver increased flexibility and agility to allow dynamic provisioning, automated service delivery, increased bandwidth and higher capacity utilisation. The performance, security and stability will need to come from the entire network, from PC, to cloud to device, in order for carriers and network partners to deliver 5G services.

A network transformation proposal that suggests replacing technology in a network when the current setup meets today’s demand does not always get the popular vote, yet the projected financial potential of 5G is difficult to ignore. A trillion dollar market is expected to be created by new mobile network standards by 2026 according to Ericsson, who with Intel and Swedish Telecoms firm Telia aims to let their customers experience 5G services in 2018 in Tallinn and Stockholm. While this is just an estimate, it highlights the huge commercial opportunities that 5G is set to generate, including the further deployment of billions of connected IoT devices.

Choice will be important for customers too, who will want their existing providers to keep up with technology, and so there is growing expectation and pressure on the entire industry to be on board with 5G and offer competitive services at scale. Market leaders will need to develop a range of relationships with communication service providers work together to ensure that the infrastructure and systems are trialed and ready to be rolled out across the UK.

It’s not simply down to the networks to prepare for 5G. Businesses will also need to transform their networks in readiness for the huge range of devices and systems that will become part of this new ecosystem. A 5G strategy will become a critical aspect of an enterprises business transformation program.

The building blocks necessary to deliver the crucial capabilities of 5G such as enhanced mobile broadband, Ultra Low latency/Ultra Reliability and connect billions of devices are being trialed around the world today ahead of the 3GPP standards ratification. The timeline for commercial 5G services is likely to be around 2020 for major cities and 2025 for full coverage in urban areas, so it’s crucial that we’re investing in the right network infrastructure now.

By collaborating through trials, investing in the network and driving standards, communication service providers and enterprises as a whole will be in good stead to further demonstrate the UK’s importance as a global centre for innovation and technology and ultimately reap the benefits of 5G.

 

DF coloured backgroundDavid Fraser is the Technical Sales Director covering Communications Service Providers in EMEA. His organisation is responsible for providing direct pre-sales support for Intel products sold into and through the service provider channel. Prior to his current role David was the Regional Applications Manager working in the Sales and Marketing Group in EMEA where he supported Multinational and Local OEM’s who were engaged in the design and development of Intel based platforms. David joined Intel in 1997 having previously spent 10 years working in the semiconductor industry where he held a variety of positions in both manufacturing and development. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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