LIVE FROM WEMEET EUROPE 2019, CASCAIS, PORTUGAL: Industry executives took a bullish view of the potential of 5G, although the flexibility offered by next-generation networks will be accompanied by new complexity in business models.

Mange Kumarasamy, telemetry CMO for Canadian operator Telus (pictured, second from left), was clear on the industry’s need for 5G: “We don’t want to get hit by a train. There are going to be disruptors, and if we don’t work together with partners and build solutions, then we’re going to be left behind,” he warned.

“We as a service provider now, what do we do? We sell smartphones and we’re trying to get into the IoT market. With 5G and the evolution of IoT, what are we going to be selling? We could be selling so many different product lines, because everything is going to be connected. So having 5G and having those slices, so we can cater to different products and different service quality, it’s going to be the key to success,” he said.

Network slicing, the ability to segment a network to meet specific requirements around, for example, quality of service or speed, was identified as a key weapon in an operator’s 5G armoury.

Kumarasamy noted: “It will let us get into different markets using one network. People might think because of all the over-the-top services, it’s going to be all you can eat plans. But the slicing opens up a whole new set of scenarios.”

Carlos Marques, head of product marketing at WeDo Technologies (pictured, far right), noted 5G will provide the platform on which innovation can happen. “If you want to move to a digital society, you need the speed, the reliability, the scalability that 5G will deliver.”

Bigger part to play
While a similar thing can be said about 4G, where operators have largely been cut out of more lucrative parts of the value chain, the executive said with 5G there is room for operators to play a more strategic role.

“When you start to look at the new business models, and you take advantage of delivering slices which can be monetised because of the quality of experience and SLAs, and you have this new platform which will bring on developers to design their solutions, and you combine all of this, you have a lot to monetise,” he said.

Antonio Vanni, VP and executive programme director at Ericsson (pictured, second from right), said 5G will address two key crunch points operators face today: “We can actually do the new business models in an economic fashion, and we can simplify and contain the complexity of the network through automation.”

While operators may not see a clear case for 5G investments, Vanni warned that by not adopting the technology, “you will find the economies of scale are against you”.

“You’ll find you have a sledgehammer, while other guys in this fight have a machine gun.”

With the executives noting 5G will result in operators needing to work in a partner-driven ecosystem, rather than delivering services on their own (or being cut out of the value chain) this creates new demands on their business systems.

Marques said: “With new pricing models, you have new data that needs to be collected, you have new value chain of partners who sit on top of the 5G networks with SLAs, and there is real time provisioning. With small margins, you don’t want to throw it all away with one mistake.”