5G Really is "Build it and They Will Come"

Though it always is possible that 800 industry professionals polled about 5G by Telecoms.com, on behalf of Mitel, are wrong, the consensus is that 5G will be in commercial operation, on a substantial basis, by 2020 (some doubt--or perhaps hope--that will happen). Fully 86 percent of respondents estimated that 5G will be in operation by 2020, with 21 percent believing that would happen in 2018, and 30 percent estimating commercial 5G operations by 2019.

And despite notable improvements in internet access speed, massive support for consumer internet of things is expected to be the key use case, 43 percent of respondents said. Another 39 percent suggested industrial IoT would be the most important use case.

Perhaps ironically, some 46 percent also believe that the industry has not yet figured out “what to do” with 5G.

Some 19 percent of respondents said increased download speed was a key use case, and another 19 percent suggested low latency would be an important use case.

At least so far, there is significant sentiment that what will make 5G so different from all other earlier generations of mobile networks is the role of new applications, use cases, revenue and business models, not sheer increases in speed.

That might seem a huge risk, with huge amounts of capital essentially being invested in “hope” that key new revenue sources will develop.

That is not unusual. The same uncertainty--or hope--was present when 3G and 4G networks were launched. Rarely have industry professionals accurately predicted what important new apps would develop, or how revenue upside would be created.

Some 85 percent of respondents agreed that “5G will be defined by its use-cases and what the end-user requires of it.” In fact, about 75 percent of respondents acknowledged that a “build it and they will come” approach will also drive 5G development.

What arguably is new is the business context within which 5G will be deployed.  “It is a generally accepted belief that operators are in need of updating their revenue streams to ensure they stay relevant in an age of competing communications providers in the form of OTT players or rival IoT network suppliers such as Sigfox,” the report notes.

In other words, such high hopes are pinned on IoT apps enabled by 5G because, if that does not happen, tier one service providers are going to encounter even-worse trouble with their business models.
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