In the run up to Connected Britain, we caught up with Sarah Mills, Sector Director Of Network Operators, SSE Enterprise Telecoms to find out how the UK can continue to lead on 5G


Why 5G connectivity relies on widespread collaboration

Connectivity in Britain is soon to be transformed, with the launch of 5G expected within the next 12 to 24 months. It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for network operators, who stand to grow their businesses and customer relationships. Likewise, many industries will see the way they do things revolutionised by 5G, and the general public will be understandably enthused by ultrafast mobile, mass machine communications and highly reliable connectivity.

However, before 5G is a reality, there’s still a lot of work to be done in deploying the technology and providing the underlying infrastructure that will allow it to happen. It’s a huge challenge for everyone involved. To my mind, meeting it relies on exceptional collaboration between infrastructure providers, MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and the government.


5G architecture and infrastructure

5G has the potential to empower some truly transformative innovations in Britain.

From smart cities, where waste collection and traffic management can be made more efficient and effective for the people who rely on them. To future gazing developments, like autonomous vehicles and smart homes. Meanwhile, some are looking at 5G to be the thing that really spurs the Internet of Things to fulfil its undoubted potential, through a high number of low power connections. McKinsey believes this can be an additional revenue generator for MNOs, if handled in the right way.

As with any big technological change, there’s a lot of moving parts at play. Meaning that delivering 5G will require a huge amount of infrastructure, including 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) swap-outs, a virtualised 5G core that’s closer to the edge of the network, and increased front, mid and backhaul capacity from RAN sites to the core.

Greater network densification and street furniture will also be required to facilitate mast-to-device connectivity. As well as rolling out 5G, MNOs and other service providers will simultaneously need to maintain their existing 4G infrastructure, which in itself will require a huge amount of strategic insight and investment – difficult for any single organisation to provide.


Collaborative connectivity

Of course, MNOs have a vital role to play in 5G delivery. They’ll be enabling consumers and businesses to use it and take full advantage of the next generation connectivity it promises. They’ll also be benefitting from businesses who are willing to pay for 5G services, and who will inevitably want to work with the MNOs that deliver the best, most resilient and reliable 5G service.

However, with the roll out of 5G wholly reliant on the successful management of vast infrastructure challenges, it’s doubtless the case that it is dependent on MNOs working with both government and infrastructure-providing partners.

In the case of the former, it’s all about funding and support. We’ve already seen £6.8 billion dedicated to making 5G a reality (from a wider national connectivity infrastructure budget), alongside the testbeds and trials programme of 2018. This has to continue and perhaps even expand – particularly as many predict that 5G will come to be seen as a fourth utility, alongside gas, water and electricity.

While the latter (infrastructure partners) will be a hugely important enabler of 5G for MNOs, delivering the critical network architecture and infrastructure that will make 5G happen. Specifically, this may come through providing strategically located aggregation locations to connect RAN sites, a robust data centre (DC) footprint to house a distributed core, or high capacity fibre and wavelength services.

The importance of this collaborative approach can’t be understated. Although there are still some significant infrastructure hurdles to jump to make it a reality, 5G is all about potential. In some cases the issue may be finding a way to ensure reliable connectivity in built up and complex urban environments. Or indeed ensuring that the promise of 5G can reach across all regions, with the bandwidth that requires.

Whatever the eventuality, realising the benefits of 5G is entirely reliant on the groups charged with its delivery, being able to work together in a positive, collaborative way.


Delivering the 5G future

Britain’s 5G future is getting closer. But there’s still plenty more planning and innovation to be done before we get there.

At SSE Enterprise Telecoms, we are well aware of our role in the development and roll-out of 5G, and are ready to take the collaborative approach that will ensure it happens and delivers on its promise.

We already have a great deal of existing infrastructure, such as a network of fibre in the sewers and our fibre-connected data centres. And we’ll be investing again to increase exchange connectivity and unbundle new BT exchanges, further supporting the delivery of 5G’s low latency service.

Moreover, we know how to work with government partners and MNOs, ensuring that they will soon be able to offer next generation connectivity to their customers – and be set to reap the benefits.


Come and join Sarah Mills, Sector Director of Network Operators, SSE Enterprise at Connected Britain 2019 as she shares her expertise in an exciting panel discussion on 5G in the UK: Building the next generation mobile. CLICK HERE for the full agenda and details of how you can be involved.