Entering the 5G era: Demand, deployment, and disquiet

21 Oct 2020 14:45h - 16:15h

Event report

5G is one of the key technological advancements to further digital transformation of our society. While the deployment of 5G remains at the initial stage, stakeholders are preparing for the 5G era. Mr Kai Sahala (Nokia) explained that 5G will be the basis of the fourth industrial revolution that will bring back growth in the physical industry. With the advent of 5G, the booming growth that we have witnessed in the digital industry will be mirrored in the physical industry. To quantify the impact of 5G, he introduced a finding from Nokia’s 5G Business Readiness Report that 5G will contribute eight trillion dollars to the global economy. Mr Jeff Edlund (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) noted that while the previous generations of networks were about connecting everyone together, 5G will be used to enable communications among everyone and ‘everything’. Mr Mani Manimohan (GSMA) confirmed this point by stating that 5G will be an essential underlying technology for the Internet of Things (IoT) in both consumer and industrial contexts.

The current 5G deployment plans across the world are largely driven by consumer demands.However, the panellists agreed that the true values of 5G’will be materialised once adopted in the industry. Mr Sanjay Kaul (Cisco Asia Pacific and Japan) highlighted that the value proposition of 5G, such as its capacity, low latency, and seamless connectivity, can fix issues, such as a decline in productivity, which the previous generations of networks had not been able to. Sahala added network slicing and stand-alone networks as new enablers for industrial IoT. Across the world, enterprises are keen and committed to deploying 5G in their businesses. For instance, manufacturing companies have applied for licensing to create their own private and dedicated networks to enable smart factories and smart manufacturing.

Some of the panellists pressed that 5G rollouts are largely reliant on 4G and LTE infrastructure. In particular, consumer expectations towards 5G need to be supported by the underlying 4G infrastructure. To meet expectations, MrMohamed Madkour (Huawei Technologies) emphasised that the investment and maintenance of 4G needs to be included in the overall 5G rollout strategy. Meanwhile, Edlund pointed to the wi-fi’s complementary role to 5G. The ability of heterogeneous networks to collaborate and keep networks running provides seamless experience of users. Mr Jemin Chung (Korea Telecom) encouraged effective fibre sharing between 4G and 5G when considering 5G rollout based on his experience of launching a 5G network in South Korea, where the fibre coverage is nationwide. Asked about the role of satellite networks, Mr Ryan Johnson (Viasat) introduced a potential of closing the digital divide by connecting the unconnected with satellite networks. As 5G deployment typically starts with urban and well-connected areas, Johnson said that the satellite industry’s focus is to ensure that the benefits of 5G are delivered equitably to rural and urban areas and called on the stakeholders to foster digital inclusion in their action plans.

Efficiency and affordability of 5G was raised as a key component for the mobile 2025 vision. Mr Le Ba Tan (Vietel) highlighted the role of governments and operators to ensure these two points. Whereas governments are responsible for developing a policy to make 5G deployment faster and more efficient, operators need to develop a strategy to make technology accessible and affordable. Madkour called on the telecom industry to consider efficiency in spectrum use, energy consumption, etc. He elaborated that the value of 5G will be reduced if the telecom sector consumes 25% of electricity.