Operators' investment in fiber is paying off today -- and will continue to reap dividends as enterprise and consumer needs change with the arrival of 5G -- unless service providers allow "fake news" and misinformation about the next-generation network to plague potential customers, creating false promises and elevated expectations.
With the arrival of 5G, businesses and individuals will access a lot more than faster speeds. They also get low latency; haptic feedback that enhances video playback; an instantly responsive network and ubiquitious coverage; the ability to truly leverage drones, virtual and augmented reality and more reliable service. By leveraging these capabilities, service providers can build or cement vertical-market businesses that specialize in, for example, telemedicine, manufacturing, real estate or government.
But before providers can get to that point, they must ensure they've seeded the market with facts. Over-hyping a new technology, especially one that's taken years to develop, risks buyer's remorse. From improbable timeframes to unrealistic expectations, "fake news" about 5G abounds and unless service providers correct this misinformation, they risk losing prospects or creating dissatisfied customers when new standards, services and products arrive.
4,000 visitors, 150 exhibitors, bags of content – three amazing days. Click here to get your free visitor pass to Broadband World Forum today.
For operators, 5G is one core driver of many of today's infrastructure deployments. As service providers today invest in new network access technologies, open systems and standards, they're considering how to integrate 5G when the standards are finalized. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for example, will operate on 5G, said Alastair Masson, head of Telco Media at
NTT Data UK, in an interview. Operators want to know how to virtualize their network and radio access network, how to change their network architecture and how to adapt their internal IT departments for 5G, he noted.
End customers are prepared to dig deeper into their budgets to pay a 5G premium, according to an August Gartner report. Three quarters of respondents said their organization would pay more for 5G mobile capabilities, the survey found. Only 8% of those surveyed expect 5G to deliver cost savings or increase revenue.
Both consumers and enterprises have mixed ideas of 5G's uses. Most survey respondents expect 5G to be an Internet of Things (IoT) enabler, according to Gartner. Also, 5G is perceived as a network evolution by 59% of those polled, while 37% deem it an enabler of digital business, the report said.
The business use of 5G has the greatest potential for revenue growth by, for example, enabling large numbers of IoT devices -- think smart city, airport or huge warehouse -- to be connected and communicating, sharing vast quantities of data in near real-time, Paul Beastall, director of technology strategy for wireless and digital services at Cambridge Consultants, told UBB2020. Today, 80% of data of data flowing through CenturyLink's network came from wireless and sensor devices, Aamir Hussain, executive vide president and CTO of CenturyLink said in a keynote address at ADTRAN Connect.
In addition, businesses believe 5G will be widely available by 2020, whereas Gartner predicts only 3% of the world's network-owning mobile firms will have launched 5G networks commercially in that year. The various standards comprising 5G are slated for availability between 2019 and 2020.
"We see awareness first, then knowledge. And interest is just starting," Beastall said
Stakeholders such as technology and phone vendors have been betting their futures on 5G, making bold claims about the next generation's capabilities and impact on customers' bottom lines.
Operators can benefit from a 34% increase in revenue from 5G-enabled market opportunities by 2026, according to
Ericsson's report, "The 5G Business Potential. Industry digitalization investments are growing, generating ICT revenue and creating a $582 billion market for CSPs by 2026, Ericsson determined. Manufacturing and energy/utilities sectors represent the biggest opportunity for revenues created or enhanced by 5G, the vendor said.
Ericsson identifies six possible applications for 5G, including Broadband and media everywhere, smart vehicles and transport, critical services and infrastructure control, critical control of remote devices, human-machine interaction and sensor networks.
"So 5G is all about densifying. It's going to be much different than WiFi on steroids," Kurt Raaflaub, head of strategic solutions marketing at ADTRAN told UBB2020. "It's much more cost-effective for moving bits."
In fact, 5g densification -- driven by NG-PON2 -- will represent nearly a $1 billion marketing opportunity by 2026, he added.
FTTx vs. 5G
Fiber and 5G are not mutually exclusive. Rather, 5G needs fiber.
"Whether that's data center connectivity, cloud connectivity, fiber to the tower, 5G -- all these things require mass amounts of fiber," said Brett Lindsey of Everstream in an interview.
Without additional investment from more sources, the future of 5G risks missing out on its potential within the US, cautioned Deloitte in "Communications Infrastructure Upgrade: The need for deep fiber." Less investment in fiber will result in less money for 5G, the consulting firm warned.
"Despite the demand and potential economic benefits of fiber deployment, the United States lacks the fiber density in access networks to make the bandwidth advancements necessary to improve the pace of innovation and economic growth. Increased speed and capacity from 5G will rely on higher frequencies and network densification," wrote Deloitte.
Like many other operators,
Comcast is exploring 5G, said David Watson, president and CEO, during an earnings call.
"On 5G, we're testing it. We're looking at it," said Watson. "It's not something that will be immediate, but we'll look at it as closely as everybody else. From our vantage point, there's work to do there, but we'll stay very close to that."
Managing expectations among consumers and businesses will be key, Gartner said.
"Communication service providers' marketing organizations need realistic roadmaps for 5G coverage and typical performance, so that they communicate with customers accurately," the research firm wrote. "They also need to publish clear 5G rollout plans for the years 2019 to 2021 to help innovators understand when and where 5G will be available for IoT applications."
Remove the hype and the misinformation, and 5G can meet numerous use cases -- known and yet to be discovered. With so many success stories ahead, no fake news allowed (or needed).
— Chris Wheal is a freelance business and technology journalist.