5G comes with the promise of unseen services and futuristic use cases. Telecom operators and other industry players are making big bets on next-generation services. 5G will bring new interactive and immersive experiences to customers.
Use cases are already being built around immersive sports viewing and augmented-reality applications. Beyond consumer applications, enterprises are actively investigating how they can benefit from 5G, and indeed thinking of deployment models themselves (e.g., smart manufacturing). We are also seeing whole industries organize themselves into ecosystems that would collectively benefit from 5G networks and related computing infrastructure (e.g., smart cities).
It is yet to be seen what role operators will play in these ecosystems, beyond facilitating their emergence, but some operators have already begun to shape the value chain and tune their services accordingly. For the first time, operators can play a key role in bringing corporates and industry verticals together, to deliver not just connectivity, but also solutions.
Meanwhile, 5G deployment models are crystallizing. New 5G pilots or technology updates are announced every month. We observe five distinct rollout models used by operators. 5G can be used to...
- ...provide gigabit broadband to residential homes and an effective last-mile complement to existing fiber or cable networks.
- ...deliver a next-generation, nationwide mobile experience that enables new use cases driven by virtual reality, tactile internet, etc.
- ...deliver highly reliable, low-latency connectivity and solutions, improving both efficiency and productivity for corporates.
- ...enable digital industrial ecosystems with machine-to-machine connectivity, facilitating new service ecosystems with multiple partners, providers and end users.
- ...deliver next-generation infrastructure-as-a-service for the entire country.
Non-telecom players are already active in the 5G-enabled product space, with pilots in autonomous driving, virtual reality-based infotainment services and other use cases. If telecom operators don’t act fast, these new players will take an increasingly large share of this new ecosystem.
There are concrete steps that telecom operators can already take to place stakes in their 5G futures. Building an application ecosystem with start-ups and service providers, is key to facilitating future 5G use cases.
Preparing the spectrum and infrastructure for future 5G macro and hundreds of thousands of small cells is another step that can be kick-started.
Fiberization of fixed-access network, which will assist in aggregating and backhauling multi-gigabit traffic, as well as cloudifying the core to enable easy scale-up and external partnerships will eventually be required. Lastly, they will have to prepare their computing infrastructure to handle this gigabit traffic.