Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of mobile consultancy Northstream, told Mobile World Live recently that the advent of 5G technology will not be the big bang some in the industry think but will actually be a “non-event”, representing a gradual upgrade from LTE-A as spectrum is slowly freed up.
Nordstrom (pictured) believes 5G faces two challenges which its predecessors did not: lack of available spectrum and high barriers to the entry of new operators.
Normally, he said, new generations of technology are typically pioneered by a new player, someone willing to “make a huge bet and spend money”, with established operators following fast in their footsteps. Now, the market has reached saturation point and the initiative will have to be taken by the incumbents.
With 5G, it is hard to pinpoint who the pioneer will be.
He also believes the initiative for a new generation of technology normally comes from markets and vendors that didn’t get a big enough role in the launch of the previous technology.
“With 5G, it is hard to pinpoint who the pioneer will be,” he said.
The one solution to making spectrum available in his mind is all players agreeing to free up space, but with data traffic consistently on the rise, this will be very hard, and he thinks it will be interesting to see how the industry handles the issue.
He also believes it is very likely that 5G will first launch in Asia-Pacific countries such as South Korea and China, as well as Japan which is to host the Olympics in 2020 and will want to have 5G by then for political reasons.
As for LTE-Advanced, Nordstrom said he is excited about its advent, as those operators who haven’t already commercially launched it are trialling it, have had a positive experience, and will be launching it very soon.
His excitement stems mainly from carrier aggregation, which theoretically brings speeds of 300 Mb/s, a “huge leap forward” for the industry and something that wasn’t imagined ten years ago.
Even if for the end user this means consistent speeds of 30-40 Mb/s in reality, it will mean an instantly better browsing experience, especially when it comes to watching HD videos.
The only requirement is a very dense grid of base stations serving high spectrum. In regions where installations are patchy, impact will not be felt as much.
As for LTE-A as a replacement for fixed broadband, he said this could play an important role in rural areas where there is no fibre broadband infrastructure available, and perhaps even serve as a cheap alternative to fixed broadband in cities, although it would not fully replace it.
He gave the example of the Philippines, where cities like Manila have very good broadband infrastructure, but the country’s rural areas do not.
Commenting on the Internet of Things, Nordstrom was of the opinion that the figures going round of 50 billion connected devices or more by 2020 were far too “aggressive” and would cause the industry to lose sight of where to focus. A smaller target of around 10 billion would be more realistic and allow stakeholders to solve obstacles in a way so that a completely new ecosystem would not be required.
In the UK, for instance, there are currently about 60 million mobile connection subscriptions – if this number was to go up tenfold by 2020, operators would have a very hard time managing them. And it’s possible that revenue would only double.
In his opinion, system integrators who will build solutions across verticals will benefit the most from IoT growth.