When you look at the forecast numbers for 5G you can see why MWC will be awash with operators and vendors pinning their hopes on 5G. According to a Juniper study (Nov 2018), annual operator billed revenues from 5G connections will hit $300bn by 2025, a major increase from $894m forecasted for 5G in 2019. On that basis, 5G service revenues will make up 38pc of total operator billed revenues by 2025, despite the anticipated 5G connections only accounting for 14pc of global cellular connections in the same year. 5G as a percentage of connections will vary widely by region but it is clear that there will be winners and losers in terms of who succeeds during such massive predicted revenue growth from a concentrated number of connections.
Viewing 5G as a simple evolution in speed or a set of standard functions would be a mistake that could cost mobile operators dearly and hinder their ability to play in the digital services realm going forward. 5G is not a “one size fits all”. As a result, competitive operators must deploy their 5G networks strategically, with the best methods available, for their specific context. It must be with an eye to long-term sustainability, competitiveness and value, for their particular market. It should mean a planned, service-led migration with earlier 3G and 4G assets optimally interwoven with 5G and smartly upgraded where necessary.
To cater for the digital mind shift associated with 5G, which will move users further from an ownership mentality to favouring access and seamless, on-demand, as well as far richer experiences, a change is needed. This move from an ownership economy to the on-demand economy could be accelerated by 5G. As result, the range of ‘as a service’ offers that operators can provide will increase dramatically. This is not just consumer based entertainment, but also B2B. Simplifying and coordinating the way in which a wider set of offerings (the wider ecosystem, including 3rd party content and partners) is enabled, controlled and monetised will be essential. It will need to provide the desired level of real-time access, automation and service authorisation, as well as flexible charging options for a plethora of new revenue sources and customer types. Ever smarter use of data in this more complex and evolving tapestry will also be critical.
The most competitive migrations to 5G will need to be led from the outside-in and demand extreme flexibility from new deployment and launch methods via a significantly smarter core, as well as new partnerships that 5G supports by definition. To do anything else will be to under-use available 5G resources. As well as amazing opportunities, 5G presents challenges for sure but just because something is challenging doesn’t mean it has to be difficult.