LIVE FROM ERICSSON 5G NOW EVENT, LONDON: Network vendor Ericsson is betting big on 5G being launched around the world in similar timeframes, with no clear regional leader for the next generation mobile technology, but warned deploying 5G will be the easy stage of the process.

“5G will be the first technology [generation] simultaneously deployed on all continents,” declared Arun Bansal, head of Market Area Europe & Latin America for Ericsson (pictured) in the opening keynote.

Bansal brushed aside concerns Europe will lag the US and Asia, noting 5G launches in Europe will be driven by “industrial use cases” including autonomous driving and healthcare in a 2018 to 2019 timeframe.

Other regions will have very different drivers. Bansal expects early 5G launches in the US to focus on providing fixed-wireless access to the 38 million households which don’t have fibre to the home. Indeed, this is already forming the main messaging behind AT&T and Verizon’s early moves to 5G.

“And in Asia we’ll see 5G widely deployed thanks to consumer use cases,” added Bansal. He cited the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan as events which will showcase the potential of augmented reality and VR over 5G.

“Leave the tech to us”
While the likes of Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei are outlining the path to 5G and some of the new use cases the technology will enable (one of the presentations this morning featured Mario, a ‘caring service robot’ for the healthcare market), Bansal didn’t shy away from the fact a lot of work needs to be done to figure out new business models for 5G. Indeed, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to exactly how operators will make money from 5G.

“5G won’t just be a technology discussion. It’s more important to find new business models and drive the business going forward. 5G will be the first ‘G’ which will handle several different use cases – until now there’s only been the consumer use case.”

He continued: “We’re moving away from the hype, the technology is the easiest part. We’ve more than 20,000 engineers working on it. We’ll fix it for you. Now the industry needs to make the money. In my mind that will be the hardest part. We need to start now, learn what sectors will take it up. And we know the 5G business case won’t be the same in every geography.”

Speaking to Mobile World Live on the sidelines of the event, Bansal elaborated: “Generating new business models is where we as an industry need to work more. The average consumer isn’t willing to pay much more for their monthly service, so how will operators monetise 5G? At the moment they are [mostly focused on] selling subscriptions.”

Bansal believes the jump from 4G to 5G is huge. While 4G enabled the growth of IoT services such as connected cars and smart homes, Bansal reckons it’s really only a “handful” of operators who are maximising this opportunity – and the move to 5G will require all operators to move into new services and agree new business models.