5G WORLD 2017, LONDON: BT’s commitment to enhance 4G until at least 2019 means 5G will have “a lot to live up to”, said Howard Watson, CEO of Technology Services and Operations (pictured).

Watson said it remained a critical priority for BT and its mobile unit EE to continue to build its 4G network across the UK, with a target of reaching 92 per cent of geographical coverage by the end of this year. By the time 5G comes to market, BT has a target of increasing its 4G coverage to 95 per cent.

He said winning a contract with UK’s Home Office to deliver communications for the country’s emergency services had “brought a new requirement in terms of coverage in itself”, and conceded it was a challenge for any commercial network.

The company has spoken repeatedly of its commitment to 4G, despite the growing hype surrounding 5G.

Watson told delegates the company hit speeds of up to 429Mb/s from a 4G base station in a trial last week in Cardiff, which “sets the baseline of what 5G needs to do beyond that”.

Moving from 4G to 5G
To enable the shift from 4G to 5G, Watson said there were a number of technologies the company is working on, such as massive MIMO, millimetre Wave (mmWave) and network slicing.

He said network slicing in particular, which it is working on in partnership with Huawei, could help the company with its emergency services network.

“We are looking at how we can use specific slices across the core network to ring fence them for particular activities,” he said.

“For example, in the future context we can see how the emergency services network could expand. One of the use cases is to ensure you have a slice for that. If you see a high peak demand from normal consumers, you don’t let that congestion affect that part of the network.”

He added BT’s strategy for 5G, and deciding what will emerge as a priority with the next-generation of mobile, was simple: “It is about understanding customer needs in terms of an end-to-end experience, and not just about what those single technologies can deliver.”

“We need to understand what the customer will need to do with their smartphones in 2020 and that is our primary driver for what 5G should achieve.”