LIVE FROM 5G WORLD, LONDON: Technical chiefs with O2 UK, Telus and Veon tipped 5G to reignite competition in the mobile infrastructure sector, following a period of consolidation and attrition which left Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia in the driving seat.

In a panel session, the operator CTOs noted the emergence of standalone 5G, which is not as closely tied to 4G for its operation, will pave the way for more innovation and, in turn, open the door for challengers. Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO of Canadian player Telus (pictured, right), explained having standalone and non-standalone standards “has caused us to go backwards for interworking.”

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO of O2 UK (pictured, left), cited companies including Mavenir, Affirmed Networks, Parallel Wireless and AutoAir as potential beneficiaries of that interworking shift. “You need that diversification that standalone will drive to be able to push the market forward. We welcome it, we work with a lot of those companies, but to really, really drive what 5G can deliver, we need a wider ecosystem.”

He added the market was operating with the minimum number of global vendors needed to drive innovation: “If you look backwards, the reason why 4G has been innovated on is because the incumbent vendors had challenger vendors who came along and drove the technology to its limit, to try to push it forward.”

Speaking in a subsequent session, John Baker, SVP of business development for Mavenir, said: “What we’ve seen is a whole bunch of vendor lock-in that has really happened through the standardisation process, and the standardisation process has in my mind been guilty of not standing up for openness. Openness is really about where the future really does take this industry, in terms of open interfaces, open platforms, and open ecosystems.”

However, Baker was optimistic about the future: “Through the initiatives of what is now O-RAN and some of the Open Networking Foundation groups, openness is now really starting to appear in the industry and I think it’s going to bring a lot of innovation and a lot of new vendors into this market place.”

Market dynamics
During the operator panel, Veon group CTO Yogesh Malik (pictured, centre), explained vendor consolidation was the result of a “ripple effect of what has gone on in the telco industry”, as operators had been put in a position of needing to invest in infrastructure while revenue has not grown correspondingly.

“I wouldn’t say there’s only one entity or function that is responsible for consolidation, one part of the value chain. Average revenue per user is not growing, and if you have to carry out massive renovations of networks, you definitely have the finances on your mind.”