The first 5G networks have been rolled out across the UK. Three have joined EE and Vodafone – with Telefonica UK set to launch next month – in making their initial steps into an exciting but uncertain future. Exciting because of the untapped potential that 5G promises, and uncertain due to its unproven economic viability.
The reality is, despite the hype-machine that currently surrounds this ‘paradigm-shifting’ technology, getting true return on investment for telecommunications companies is not going to happen next week, next month or even next year. Especially given that wide-scale deployment of 5G is not expected to come into effect for at least another half decade.
However, the sooner providers realise there’s a need to transition to a new model – one that moves beyond just traditional phones and data plans – the better placed they will be to monetise as the market for 5G continues to evolve.
In comparison to previous network technologies, the capabilities of 5G will vary greatly by application – with different services having distinct requirements in order to reach their true potential.
Robotics and autonomous vehicles need to capitalise on 5G’s ultra-low latency abilities. Other uses, such as augmented reality games, must combine the higher data rates achievable via 5G with the ability to support an extremely high density of connected devices.
Supporting these use cases that are immediately visible – to say nothing of the uses that are currently inconceivable – will require a range of new strategies from operators. More emphasis must be put on the network edge, private network implementations and virtualisation than ever before.
Network providers have key advantages in capitalising on these opportunities – they have the unique ability to place processing power at the network edge, for example – but it will require a complete overhaul of their traditional modes of operation.
Fortunately this is uncharted territory for everyone and there are no entrenched players. However, in order to fully realise the promise of 5G operators need help and guidance.
Structures and processes must be implemented that help them intelligently leverage 5G technology over the long-term – instead of a reactive deployment that leaves them lagging behind their competitors.
At NTT DATA UK, we believe the key approach to maximising 5G’s potential and profitability is to make your network available to as many partners as possible. This includes greater collaboration between departments internally to support innovation from within the company, but crucially, also opening up the network to third parties.
Operators that integrate with third parties, in the easiest and simplest manner, will be best placed to take advantage of 5G’s range of use cases – in addition to creating and deploying the as yet unimagined services that will provide the incremental revenue operators need.
We’ve called this concept 5G enablement, and it necessitates as much a cultural shift for providers as a technical one.
But this change in culture will not come without challenges. Providers have operated in a world of fixed products for so long that transitioning to a model that emphasises a more abstract ‘environment’ of services may prove difficult.
Effective change management – a process that NTT DATA is a global leader in helping provide – will be absolutely critical in ensuring the entirety of the organisation is in position to recognise and act on the innovations 5G will accommodate.
On a technical level, our 5G enablement platform supports a number of foundational technologies that will be required by 5G – in particular more ambitious use of automation. These capabilities will provide the cost efficiencies, network resilience and faster testing/configuration capabilities that are vital for operators to manage and deliver 5G services at speed.
Both these cultural and technical transformations must go hand-in-hand if providers are to make their networks profitable and realise the exciting untapped potential of 5G technology.
Download the "NTT DATA: a perspective on harnessing the potential of 5G" whitepaper.
To find out how you can optimise your 5G investment and for more information on 5G enablement, please contact Guillermo Pedraja, Head of Networks at NTT DATA UK