LIVE FROM HUAWEI’S GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2017, LONDON: Operators currently have an unclear business model on which to build their 5G network investment plans according to Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT.

“I talk to other CEOs around the world in this space, and we’ve all been struggling a little bit making the business case work. If you look from 3G to 4G, the case was underpinned by going from what was a pretty poor internet experience to one which was really opening up the potential of the internet to mobile. And we haven’t found that yet for 5G,” Patterson (pictured, left) said.

In a keynote presentation this morning (16 November), the executive said: “Clearly the innovation is there, it’s coming to market quickly. But, ultimately, as carriers we’ve got to make a significant investment and put the capex down, and the business case still needs to be I think learnt, in many ways.”

Echoing comments made by other executives here, Patterson said enhanced mobile broadband services will be at the heart of 5G deployments, making it essential operators are “able to build capacity, but also are able to monetise that”.

“But then it is opening up all the verticals around IoT which are going to open up new revenue streams. Finding the use cases I think is the biggest challenge we have at the moment,” he said.

It is a pressing issue for operators. Stating he expects services to be rolled out toward the end of 2019, Patterson explained “we need to build the business case I would say over the next quarter”.

The executive also had a clear message to its vendors: “To underpin this business case we need to get the lowest cost deployment we possibly can, recognising this is a pretty big infrastructure project in its own right.”