5G is emerging as the fastest generation ever deployed, with more than 200 5G networks and three million base stations worldwide, several of them in China, South Korea and the US.
Several industry leaders discussed the growing 5G ecosystem at a recent panel discussion organized by Euronews. Laurent Leboucher, the Chief Technical Officer of French Telecom’s giant Orange, Dr. Philip Song, the Chief Marketing Officer at Huawei Carrier Business Group, and Alex Sinclair, the Chief Technical Officer at GSMA participated in the discussion.
However, Europe needs to catch up in 5G deployments. As of now, there are 108 live networks in 34 markets in Europe. “The first challenge that we face is, of course, access to spectrum. In Europe, the spectrum is allocated to operators in each country. So it means that there is a specific process, and there is a specific timeline for each country. However, not all governments have yet granted the license to do it, but it will come,” says Laurent Leboucher of Orange. Further, he added that access to a full range of 5G devices is also a challenge in Europe.
However, the global 5G ecosystem is vibrant, with more and more telcos deploying 5G. “5G was launched three years ago and it has seen considerable growth. By the end of October, more than 230 operators have launched commercial 5G services. Over the past three years, the world’s top 20 operators by the number of 5G stations already saw their average revenue per user increase by more than 10%,” says Dr Philip Song of Huawei.
While the technology offers several innovative use cases, one of the crucial benefits for the operator is that it helps them increase the mobile network’s capacity. “if we want to cope with the increase in usage that we experience with networks, we definitely had to deploy 5G. Orange 5G customer experience is already double what a 4G customer or user can experience in terms of bandwidth. It means that in all cases, it’s more than 200 Mbit/s per user in cities,” says Laurent. However, the second phase of the technology will bring in newer use cases like XR, VR and connected cars, among others.
5G: Transformative Impact on Enterprises and Consumers
5G promises to change the way enterprises work. The combination of ultra-high-speed and extremely low latency will enable several new use cases for different industry verticals. It is helping companies digitally transform their operations and use automation for improved operational efficiency.
“5G has already created great value for the industry in the past three years. The industries are embracing 5G and using it as a tool for the digital transformation. We believe 5GtoB can make businesses smarter, greener and more secure and more efficient,” says Philip. For instance, it has been deployed in mines in South Africa to enable remote operations and improve the workers’ security and working conditions.
Right from operating machines to automated robotic systems to augmented reality in the maintenance of systems, we are only limited by our imagination where 5G use cases are concerned. 5G use cases promise to help companies improve productivity and efficiency. Different 5G Private Networks deployment models will emerge in different geographies and in line with the requirements of different industry verticals.
“Both, network slicing and 5G private networks will coexist. While most of the requirements can be met by public networks, enterprises will also go for a dedicated private network, which they can also do in partnership with operators, or in some countries, they can do it themselves,” says Alex Sinclair of GSMA.
5G allows service providers to offer innovative use cases, like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Connected Cars and remote surgery, among others, to consumers to grow their revenue.
“Three factors are most critical to the 5G business department. More entry-level 5G devices, better network experience and innovative content and applications. When it comes to innovative content and applications, it’s agreed that new videos, cloud gaming, and AR are the top 3 killer services. So nearly around 40% of the 5G operators around the world have already provided value-added 5G services, in addition to their original packages,” explained Dr Philip Song of Huawei. Besides videos, immersive experience of sports-related events
Ensuring 5G Coverage Across Europe
5G is a transformative technology which will have a massive social and economic impact. To ensure that everybody is able to benefit from it, European Union has set a goal of getting uninterrupted 5G coverage across all urban areas and major transport routes by 2025.
“The EU adopted a 5G Action Plan for Europe in 2016 to ensure good deployment of 5G infrastructure across Europe. The objective was to make sure at first that 5G was deployed in all European states by 2020, at least launching 5G, and barring a few exceptions, we do have 5G almost everywhere. So we are on track to have 5G coverage across all urban areas and major transport routes by 2025,” says Laurent of Orange.
The coverage can be enhanced by deploying more base stations, elaborated Dr Philip Song of Huawei.
“If we can deploy more base stations, especially along the motorway, the coverage can be guaranteed. We need some innovative software or features to enhance the coverage. 5G is the best solution because it can provide 10 times the capacity and huge connectivity to the consumers,” says Dr Philip Song.
Using 5G to Enhance Energy Efficiency
A major concern faced by the telcos now is that they need to adopt sustainable and environment-friendly practices. 5G helps in this as it is a more energy-efficient technology when compared with previous standards.
5G networks are about ten times more energy efficient than 4G networks and provide a better user experience while supporting a higher density of connections. While meeting the exact data service requirements, 5G networks consume less energy than 4G networks and can support larger bandwidth and more data applications. With 5G, more activities can be carried out online, which also can reduce carbon emissions.
“As an ICT infrastructure provider, Huawei has been focusing on environmental protections for quite a while through our product and solution innovations. We make the biggest impact by improving the energy efficiency of our customer’s networks and reducing their carbon emissions,” says Dr Philip Song of Huawei. “Huawei also follows a “More Bits, Less Watts” strategy, which helps us develop a set of green indicators and a three-layer green solution. These indicators and solutions can help the carriers improve their networks’ energy efficiency,” he added.
European service providers like Orange believe 5G is helping industries reduce carbon emissions. “It’s also even more important to use and leverage 5G to help other companies to manage in a better way scarce resources, but also to manage and consume less energy, because we will leverage more data, we will be smarter. Because of the digital infrastructure that we can provide, we can help other industries to reduce their own impact,” says Laurent of Orange.
Now that 5G development has gained momentum, what lies ahead for the technology? “We believe 5G will naturally evolve to 5.5G in 2025, and it will enable a much better experience for the customers and open business opportunities for the operators,” says Philip. “All the industry players, including the world-leading operators, are already moving faster towards 5.5G. We can see this in the improvement to the standards, spectrum, industrial value chain, and also ecosystem as well,” he added. 5.5G promises to deliver a tenfold increase in user experience, connectivity and ten times more energy efficiency.
Further, the future for European markets involves movement towards 5G Standalone (5G SA) and greater use of network slicing, which will allow service providers to provide more specific networks that would address some key requirements such as security, local data processing, and latency. Besides, going forward, immersive applications will become more popular, which will lead to the development of new use cases, including metaverse and metaverse experiences.
“For Europe, the most important thing is that 5G is deployed at reasonable levels everywhere, which in itself will make such a big difference to European citizens. It’s not always about the highest throughput and the lowest latency, making sure that everybody has access to a very good level of broadband is important,” says Alex Sinclair of GSMA.