Even as the global 5G ecosystem continues to grow and the technology has emerged as a growth engine for the service provider, the industry is still at the beginning of realizing the vast potential of the technology, says Ken Hu, Rotating Chairman at Huawei, while delivering the keynote at Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2023 at Dubai.

The event, with the theme ‘Bring 5.5G into Reality’, saw the participation of several prominent service providers and other industry stakeholders from all regions and geographies.

Ken Hu noted that there are about 260 5G networks now across different regions, covering almost half of the world’s population. In the last four years, the industry has provided 1.5 billion 5G connections and has helped the telcos grow their ARPU by 10% to 25% in some markets. According to GSMA, 5G is likely to touch 5.2 billion connections by 2035.

“5G comes with new capabilities that give access to the telcos in the B2B market. The industry must now concentrate on building capabilities for the enterprise segment enterprise as there are several use cases for different industry verticals. 5G will help us change the world,” says Ken Hu.

He identified ports, mining and manufacturing industries where the industry can commercially scale up 5G capabilities. While consumers like 5G because of the superior experience that brought by 5G’s high speed and low latency, industries need 5G as it opens up new use cases and business models.

“As the 5G ecosystem matures, there is a lot of work to be done to enhance the network experience to promote data usage, more coverage and more applications to help service providers maximize the returns on investment,” said Ken Hu. “5G is a great opportunity for the service providers to go beyond just connectivity to build new capabilities,” he added.

Ken Hu was joined by Mats Granryd, GSMA’s director general, who mentioned that 5G has had a good run in the last four years and the momentum is likely to continue over the next few years. “We believe by 2030 there will be 5.2 billion 5G subscribers across the world. It will also add around $1 trillion annually to the global economy by 2030…we are very bullish about 5G in future,” said Mats Granryd.

“With around 1.5 billion 5G connections, 5G is the fastest global wireless revolution. While the consumer segment has been the focus of early 5G deployments, the enterprise segment is the largest opportunity for 5G,” Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer at GSMA.

Monetizing 5G investments

One of the high-potential 5G use cases is Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Karim Benkirane, CCO at du, highlighted that 5G-enabled FWA had the potential to provide an even better experience than fiber in the future. 5G also constitutes 60% of the total traffic and this is likely to grow as the coverage increases. A better indoor 5G experience demands FWA and will help in faster monetization of 5G.

However, a significant challenge in the growth of FWA is segregating FWA traffic from mobile traffic. “5G Advanced will help us provide even better speed and FWA experience and will help us grow the SME market as well,” said Benkirane.

Shaun Collins, Executive Chairman of CCS Insights also highlighted the growing relevance of FWA. “Two years back, FWA was nothing more than a note on a slide. However, it has grown and now offers significant growth potential. 5G is going to rule over the next six-to-seven years and collaboration and partnerships between stakeholders will help in realizing the telcos realize the potential of 5G.”

The telcos must continue to invest in networks to maximize the return on investment. “Today we have 99% 5G coverage in the country. We continued to invest in the networks to ensure the best network experience and coverage to differentiate from other players,” mentioned Bruce Lam, CEO, Consumer, Hong Kong Telecommunications.

A crucial point in the development of 5G is the timely adoption of 5G Advanced, which forms a bridge between 5G and 6G. While 6G is likely to be launched only around 2030, the service providers will need 5G Advanced to address the growing need for speed and capacity. “5G Advanced is a natural evolution of 5G. At Huawei, we are ready for large-scale deployment of 5G Advanced to help service providers better address the challenges,” says Li Peng, Corporate Senior Vice President and President of the Carrier BG at Huawei.