LIVE FROM 5G WORLD 2017, LONDON: Uwe Janssen, VP of innovation and research at Deutsche Telekom (pictured), urged “radical change” across the industry to address expected high infrastructure costs for 5G, as he slammed a lack of innovation from the vendor community.

Janssen, speaking in a keynote at 5G World 2017, cautioned deploying 5G will require a “different approach” to ensure the required investment is made across its network and address customer demands for higher bandwidth and capacity.

“That is something we can deliver with 5G, but it also requires us to significantly invest in our networks. Our return on capital deployed is not what our shareholders would like to see from us and they are always challenging us to improve,” he said.

In his presentation, Janssen cited a Barclays study from 2016 which predicted “only a few global operators” would be able to participate in all three main projected fields of 5G – enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT, and ultra-reliable and low-latency networks.

He said the German-based operator had already made significant investment in LTE and launched NB-IoT, adding technologies including SDN and NFV were making networks more virtual and software-based.

However, these efforts will not be enough to fuel future 5G investment, Janssen warned: “None of these technologies help us address the infrastructure cost problem.”

“We need something really radical to happen. This could be by looking at new business models and new production models, which should be at the core of 5G planning.”

Infrastructure innovation
Janssen explained investing in 5G would require looking at fixed access, mobile access and the core network, and it was already getting hard to “distinguish between fixed and mobile”.

While cost was his major pain point, he also warned of the issues facing operators by having only “a handful of global suppliers left in the industry” to deal with.

“On the infrastructure side there is limited innovation in infrastructure and it is also very difficult for newcomers to enter. This is despite a lot of good ideas and innovations coming from universities and start-up companies, but it is hard for them to come to market because there are a few big suppliers with their own agendas – we need to see a change here.”

He explained lack of vendor options is one of the issues the operator hoped may be addressed by the Telecom Infra Project, which brings together a number of companies, including Facebook, to develop innovative new approaches to infrastructure.