Total Telecom caught up with Comvergent’s Managing Director, Paul Garston, to find out how the UK can take the next steps in its 5G journey.
The UK has established itself as an early adopter for 5G and has become something of a 5G pioneer in Europe. What challenges does the UK now face in densifying its fledgling 5GV networks?
There is significant good work ongoing to address many of the key challenges of densifying 5G but clearly barriers remain. The planning regulation and legislative challenges, as well as the availability of appropriate backhaul, remain central themes. I also believe successful densification requires early stimulation of private 5G deployment to address specific use cases, in parallel with carrier network densification, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.
What are some of the use cases that will help telcos monetise 5G in 2020 and beyond in the consumer sector?
5G networks will still be in the relatively early stages of rollout through 2020 and in most cases are NSA 5G deployments. The NSA 5G deployment allows the MNO’s to gain technology and market leadership, whilst leveraging their existing network assets, rather than deploying a completely new end-to-end 5G network. This however won’t offer all of the longer-term opportunities associated with SA 5G. In my opinion, the early consumer sector use cases centre on the enhanced mobile broadband experience, the opportunity for new immersive experiences and fixed wireless access as a viable alternative to fibre.
How about in the enterprise sector?
The early use cases for the enterprise sector are likely to come from massive machine-type applications, for example, smart cities, smart utilities, asset tracking, agriculture, geo-fencing applications etc. However, I feel that use cases based on ultra-low latency and high reliability will be the real driver of new revenue streams in the longer term. These will only be truly deliverable with the SA 5G NR and a 5G Core, which provides the platform for ultra-low latency and high-reliability dependent use cases such as autonomous vehicles, industrial automation and control, robotics, drone control, critical heath applications etc.
How well prepared is the UK for the transition between non stand-alone and stand-alone 5G?
In my opinion, we are already on the evolutionary journey towards SA 5G, it is just a matter of time and perspective – the eventual migration from 5G NSA to SA should be invisible to the user. What is important is that the entire ecosystem leverages the immediate benefits of NSA 5G and gears up for the opportunities from SA 5G once it is in place. Non stand-alone brings 5G to market early, building momentum, creating the ecosystem and getting the market thinking, this has got to be advantageous. The fact the UK is an early adopter of 5G means that we are as prepared as anyone for transition to SA 5G.
You’ve been working with Huawei in the UK for around 12 years now – How has your relationship with them developed over that time?
Our partnership with Huawei has developed significantly in terms of revenue and capability over the past 12 years in line with Huawei’s growth in the UK market. In parallel our business relationship has developed based on trust, flexibility and innovation. Huawei are a key strategic customer and we have seen strong relationships developed with high levels of engagement at all levels of our business.
You’ll be taking part in Connected Britain 2020 this June – How will the UK’s connectivity landscape have changed by then? What are your predictions for the industry over the course of the next 12-18 months?
One thing is clear, to deliver maximum benefit over the next 12-18 months we must have more certainty on government policy towards 5G infrastructure; we cannot afford to lose momentum and the current uncertainty has to be addressed. At this year’s event, full fibre and 5G coverage (rather than densification) will still be hot topics. We anticipate significant levels of ongoing 5G RAN activity and an increase in e-band microwave backhaul implementations where full fibre isn’t yet available. I anticipate the growing collaboration we are currently seeing across the 5G ecosystem will drive adoption of 5G based services across multiple verticals, with growing private 5G network opportunities. I also expect we will see a number of commercial 5G FWA offerings gaining good ground in some cities.