LIVE FROM MWC LAS VEGAS 2022: Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner (pictured, left) described 5G as a marathon and not a 100-metre dash, but he does see use cases starting to gain traction as operators look to monetise their investments.

Entner shared the keynote stage with David Christopher, EVP and GM for AT&T Business Development and Alliances and CTIA chairman (pictured, right), to discuss the state of play for 5G.

Christopher noted US operators have spent $130 billion building their 5G networks with $120 billion over the past two years to buy mid-band and C-Band spectrum.

All told, US operators are deploying 725MHz of spectrum for 5G.

He identified spectrum, massive IoT and AR as the three areas which will drive 5G.

While there’s no “big bang” for AR, Christopher stated many of the capabilities which will be needed are well underway. Entner was bullish on using AR for the education sector to close the digital divide.

Entner noted massive IoT can be used for transportation issues such a directing traffic away from schools when there’s congestion or air quality issues. Sensors can also be used for smart lighting in cities.

“One of the critical things here is we have to find business cases that have a faster payback period,” Entner noted, citing a city mayor being able show that solutions such as smart lighting require fewer resources while providing a more efficient service.

To grow and monetise 5G, Entner and Christopher agreed there needs to be more federal spectrum made available to mobile operators.

Entner said while the government is willing to pay to grow other sectors, operators are required to buy spectrum, which makes it difficult to plan a pipeline of new services and applications.

“We need exclusive spectrum because sharing is hard,” he said. “CBRS is a very good example of trying to share a prime piece of real estate.”