The truth about 5G – what the UK industry believes
We were lucky enough to be invited to the 5G Realised event earlier in the month, from which we took away the key message the collaboration will be the ultimate key to successful development, deployment, adoption and commercial success.
Accenture made the comment that in each of the new value chains, there are at least five to six partners required to make it possible, and that in their opinion, the only really immediate consumer use case is for in-fill broadband (e.g. fixed-wireless access in areas cables can’t reach).
The comment about partnership and collaboration was repeated by many during the event, and was a key theme. Brendan O’Reilly (Telefonica O2, CTO) commented that collaboration was the new ‘C’ for mobile operators to focus on; Customers, Coverage, Capacity, Collaboration.
Howard Watson (BT Group CTO) commented that 5G would spur the resurgence of voice, but not necessarily for mobile phones, but other devices – you can think of voice controlling other things like smart speakers, cars, even security devices.
Watson continued to press the point that 5G would enable operators to finally deliver on the promise of Fixed-Mobile-Convergence (FMC) that they’ve been trying to achieve for many years already.
Graham Baxter (Three UK, COO) discussed how they’ve been busy transforming their entire operation, and partnering with SSE on a dark fibre backbone across the UK. A mobile operator executive sitting next to me commented that along with their significant investment in radio spectrum, Three UK are ‘politely disruptive’.
Naturally, the mobile operators talked a lot about networks and the complexity and costs of rolling those out. Andrea Donà (Head of Networks, Vodafone UK) commented that before you can get too worried about the services, you need to make sure you have the underlying enabler sorted out.
Donà further commented on how, in the face of declining revenues, the existing business models for mobile operators are unsustainable and cannot be relied on for the future of 5G.
He commented that connectivity would be a very small part of a mobile operator’s 5G revenue plan, and their work was focusing on converging networks to create lower cost enablers.
With a lower cost base in your enablers, he commented, it was possible and necessary to switch to a service view of your network.
When are verticals not verticals?
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When talking about services, mobile operators find it easy to think in terms of services and the verticals those services could apply to.
One very well positioned comment during the session highlighted that with the high degree of collaboration needed, the industry needs to move away from thinking about automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, engineering etc. as just verticals. They don’t see themselves as verticals, they are entire, successful industries and if you’re going to collaborate, you will need to understand and respect that.
It seems clear that the customer’s journey through 5G will touch many companies, across many industries, each of which can justifiably stake a claim on the customer ownership.
With so much dependency on collaboration, there is a clear and historically demonstrable risk that disagreements on ownership could lead to a breakdown in communications between potential partners. The success of 5G, in our opinion, will be built on how well mobile operators and large existing industries can agree on who ‘owns the customer’.
Thanks to our friends at Juliet Media we’ve been able to share the video of the opening remarks and presentation from Accenture. For more videos from the event please visit Juliet Media’s Vimeo collection here.
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