LIVE FROM 5G WORLD 2018, LONDON: Howard Watson, CTIO of BT (pictured), positioned 5G as an important factor in its fixed mobile convergence efforts and revealed an ambition to switch off its 3G network in 2022.
The executive noted 5G could help the operator deliver services to consumers which are “not constrained or interrupted wherever they are” as part of a convergence drive.
“In terms of customer growth, because in effect we’ve reached saturation point in the market, it’s now about customers moving through tiers”, for example moving to fibre for broadband and larger mobile bundles.
“Our customers, all of us today, are these sort of skilled data warriors in terms of figuring out how to get the best data from any means we can, whatever environment we are in. Our challenge through convergence is to make that more straightforward and easy for customers, so that they don’t have to be thinking about that depending on what they are wanting to do,” he said.
Watson said BT is looking to launch 5G services in late 2019: “But it’s more than just about 5G as a mobile network. To really deliver the benefits of convergence to our customers, we’re going to have to do a lot of other things too.”
“We do really need to look at these networks as an integrated whole, from a customer-centric perspective. Not just what single technologies can deliver.”
He said BT is already using a single IMS platform for VoLTE, Wi-Fi and fixed IP, meaning “we can truly redefine that fixed and mobile experience, and tackle some of those enduring issues between individuals with SIM cards and households with fixed lines, and try to be innovative in how we tackle those”.
The plan is to deliver services using a single core network, with support for network slicing. BT is also working with standards bodies, “and really making sure that as those 3GPP standards evolve that they truly meet the needs of a converged operator, as well as standalone mobile operators”.
Watson said BT had now “established an enhanced mobile broadband business case, and built a business case to invest in 5G on the back of that.”
“I’m still waiting, though, to really concretely land the business cases that truly exploit low latency and truly exploit massive connectivity, so that we can incrementally add them in to the mobile broadband case we’ve built.”
While 5G will enable operators to deliver mobile broadband services in a more cost efficient way, “that isn’t next year”, he continued: “We’ve built our plans for our launch towards the back end of 2019 on the basis that we think we can offer a great, differentiated converged experience to customers.”
Watson added BT is looking at phasing out its legacy PSTN network in 2025, following the potential switch-off of 3G in 2022.
While the CTIO described the 3G move as “an ambition” the company is already refarming some 3G spectrum for 4G services: “We ultimately see 2G and 4G coexisiting, and lessening the need for 3G. But there are a lot of people with 3G devices, so that will govern the rate at which we do it.”