PARTNER CONTENT – GSMA THRIVE CHINA 2020: Senior executives from leading mobile operators and equipment suppliers attending the GTI Summit 2020 highlighted the need for global collaboration to move the 5G ecosystem to the next level and start to address the diversified needs of enterprise customers to open up new revenue opportunities.

Speakers at the event themed The 5G For All also emphasised the role of connectivity amid the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, noting the need for greater performance and capacity has never been more important.

GSMA director general Mats Granyrd declared in his keynote that further advancements in 5G technology of course requires investment, with the GSMA forecasting global mobile operators to invest almost $1.1 trillion in their networks between now and 2025, with about 80 per cent earmarked for 5G.

By 2025 the organisation expects worldwide 5G connections to reach 1.1 billion, or 23 per cent of total mobile connections.

In addition to funding, he noted future spectrum policy is a top priority, adding there is a need for more exclusive spectrum to be assigned to mobile operators at more reasonable prices.

He also suggested 5G “gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate how the industry builds networks to support the different demands from enterprise verticals”.

China Mobile
Dong Xin, CEO of China Mobile, said its support for the 2.6GHz ecosystem, which has gone from nothing to scale deployments, accelerated the maturity of the standalone (SA) 5G standard, laying a foundation for its SA rollout this year.

Giving an update on its 5G network construction, he said the world’s largest operator has deployed more than 140,000 5G base stations and delivered commercial services in more than 50 cities across China. The next-generation infrastructure, he said, provides a sound foundation for activities such as scientific research and environmental monitoring.

Looking ahead, it aims to increase the number of 5G base stations to more than 300,000 by the end of the year to expand coverage nationwide.

The operator leads the world in IoT connections, with its OneLink and OneNET platforms supporting 710 million and 160 million connections, respectively. Xin noted it recently released its Jiu-tian AI platform.

In terms of consumer services, the operator introduced ultra-HD live streaming, cloud gaming and cloud VR, and on the business side it offers smart factory and smart grid applications supported by 5G. It also built the world’s first 5G smart coal mining platform.

To strengthen its cooperation with device partners, he said China Mobile will promote the maturity of multi-mode, multi-band and multi-form devices in order to support global roaming. The targeted bands are 700MHz, 2.6GHz, 3.5GHz and 4.9GHz.

Xin believes 5G will create new capabilities which will drive the digital economy into a new era led by intelligence.

NTT Docomo
Kazuhiro Yoshizawa, president and CEO of NTT Docomo, said ahead of its commercial 5G network launch in March it promoted the joint development of new services with a broad range of external partners via its 5G Open Partner Programme, which has more than 3,400 participants. It also completed the verification of 430 trial 5G services under the initiative.

As a member of the O-RAN Alliance, the CEO said the operator is working with partners to address the need for international standardisation to support interoperable connections among global vendors based on an open platform. He said this will allow operators to select base station equipment from different vendors and install the optimal gear for each location, which is expected to lead to faster and more flexible 5G buildouts.

“We are committed to leading the evolution into ‘beyond 5G,’ which will expand on the technical properties of 5G, while producing more use cases combining multiple requirements,” Yoshizawa said.

B2B shift
KT CEO Ku Hyeon-mo said a year after the commercial launch of 5G in 2019, the number of subscribers in South Korea reached 6.3 million at end-April, accounting for 9 per cent of total mobile subscribers. By the end of this year, the number is expected to exceed 16 million, but he acknowledged progress may slow down due to Covid-19 (coronavirus).

While the country started with a focus on the consumer market, he believes 5G growth will face limits if operators depend only on that segment, since LTE and 5G offerings are too similar to differentiate the value.

He sees a huge opportunity in the B2B market, noting that is where operators should be heading since 5G can improve productivity in industries that enable digital transformation, and B2B customers are less price sensitive than consumers. In addition, if operators differentiate their services, they will face less direct competition.

Vendor side
Ericsson president and CEO Borje Ekholm sees the next three years as being critical in determining the 5G landscape, as it offers service providers a unique opportunity for the first-movers to move ahead and create a sustainable competitive advantage for other operators.

For almost a decade now, Ericsson has analysed why some service providers have been able to drive higher revenues and faster revenue growth. The key reason for their success, Ekholm noted, is that they have been seeking differentiation, which includes early launches of new technology and new networks.

As everything gets connected in society in the 5G era, the quality of mobile connectivity will become even more important, he stated.

Huawei chairman Liang Hua highlighted the need for the global telecoms industry to continue working together to further push the convergence of 5G, cloud and AI.

He believes the more integrated these technologies become, the more power “we can unlock in connectivity and computing, which will drive industry innovation and development”.

In addition, the healthy development of the 5G industry requires an open and collaborative ecosystem to accommodate different devices and integrate with different systems in order to work flexibly and efficiently. For example, he said wireless technology standards must be globally unified and harmonised to maximise the commercial value of ICT technologies like 5G and drive the industry forward.

New path
As the world is about to embark on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Rajeev Suri, president and CEO of Nokia, proposed taking a new path on which digitalised businesses are optimised not only for commercial performance but all for human health and happiness.

Nokia calls this approach Industry X powered by 5G.

Suri gave examples in the healthcare and transportation sectors of how 5G connectivity coupled with new service innovation creates people-focused value while still benefitting the bottom-line.

“We need to enable Industry X in the public and private sectors as soon and as efficiently as possible.”

Meanwhile, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said connectivity now more than ever plays a critical role, noting the need for 5G to upgrade connectivity and bring greater performance and capacity has never been more important.

He said Qualcomm has been a part of the GTI since its beginning and now its mission to bring 5G to everyone is more relevant than ever.

He insisted long-term success is contingent on collaboration. “It is a global industry; no single company can do it all. Success today has really come as a result of tireless work between companies across the 5G value chain, even during the pandemic, and across ecosystems.”

ZTE CEO Xu Ziyang said a total of 81 commercial 5G networks have been launched worldwide, with China accounting for 70 per cent of global 5G connections. By 2025, China is projected to have 8 billion IoT connections, ten-times more than 5G subscriptions.

As operators look to the enterprise sector, he said they need to focus on offering specific industry applications by first understanding customers’ pain points, then developing differentiated services that create value. To move in this direction, they need agile and flexible platforms enabling them to create customised services for specific clients.

GTI initiative
At the event, the GTI announced its 5G Global Device Initiative to promote next-generation devices supporting multi-mode (NSA and SA) and multiple spectrum bands, as well as RCS and global roaming.

The initiative, backed by 27 global operators and vendors, sets clear goals and action plans to propel the maturity of the entire 5G device ecosystem through concerted efforts aligned with all stakeholders.

The GTI was founded in 2011 and after nine years of joint efforts attracted 136 operator and 239 vendor partners. In 2016, GTI 2.0 was officially launched, aiming to further promote 4G evolution, 5G development and cross-industry innovation.