Not surprisingly, the mobile industry doesn’t see the buzz around 5G as hype. Given that 5G will be an overlay to 4G, the massive boost in computing power, its role as an enabler for vertical industries and the long lead time needed to allocate spectrum, it’s not too early to start the debate, agreed participants during ‘The Road to 5G’ session at MWC Shanghai last week.
Nokia Networks’ CEO Rajeev Suri said people are focused on 5G because it has the potential to “be such a fantastic enabler with its phenomenal speeds and massive processing power”.
But he argued that the current conversation is principally around the Internet of Things (IoT), which is more relevant now and will evolve and then 5G will come as an enabler for vertical industries at the right time.
LG Uplus CEO Sangchul Lee agreed with Suri that the rapid rise of 5G is driven by the huge increase in computing power. “People tend to be lazy, they don’t want to think, so they will want computers to think and work for them, that’s why we need 5G.”
“People tend to be lazy, they don’t want to think, so they will want computers to think and work for them, that’s why we need 5G.”
“And remember, 5G is not replacing 4G, it’s on top of it, so I think it’s a good time to start talking about it now,” Lee said.
Ken Hu, Huawei’s deputy chairman and rotating CEO, doesn’t believe the industry is hyping the technology. “I think we’re doing the right thing at the right time. With a 10-year technology innovation cycle from identifying the requirements and vision to the launch, now we’re in the middle of this cycle.”
From a business perspective, he believes 5G will be very different from any existing technologies. “The big opportunity for 5G is to expand applications to all the vertical industries, which will help our industry to break out and find future revenue growth.”
And he noted it will take time for the industry to replace existing siloed models, understand the needs of vertical industries and to make sure that 5G technologies and standards match their requirements and cover their application scenarios.
“So actually it’s the right time to start promoting the value of 5G as a critical enabler for cross-industry collaboration,” he said.
Paul Fletcher, Australian MP and parliamentary secretary to the minister of communications, noted that another important reason why it makes sense to start talking about 5G is the long lead times on agreeing on global spectrum allocations.
“The global harmonisation is probably the biggest factor in the lead times in terms of getting spectrum approved,” he said.
With the industry infatuated with new technology, Fletcher said it has a challenge to go beyond what 5G means to industry participants and explain the benefits that make sense to the general public.
For example, he said, the talk about low latency is asking people to understand a solution to a problem they don’t know exists. “I think there’s a big challenge to crystallise what the end-user benefits are.”