LIVE FROM 5G WORLD 2017, LONDON: Matthew Beal, Vodafone Group’s technology director for Innovation and Architecture, called for the mobile industry to pounce on opportunities in IoT and low-latency immediately, rather than waiting for 5G to come to market.

Beal (pictured, far left), speaking on a panel, suggested Vodafone did not believe 5G had to be disruptive across the board, and there were areas of technology “that we can quit waiting on”.

“We can start exploiting the internet of things now, while we are only a year out from low-latency, so we better start developing that now. It’s actually time to think ‘now, now now’. One of the things our industry is frequently criticised for is speed.”

Beal said some of the promised 5G IoT capabilities could already be delivered by technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, and the segment did not need to be defined “by generational opportunities”.

Vodafone is a big backer of NB-IoT and launched commercially in Spain and the Netherlands. It is also trialling LTE-M technology in both markets.

In the same panel, Eric Lavender, GM of Communications Infrastructure and Global Sales at Intel (pictured, second from left), backed up Beal’s comments, stating 5G will cause more disruption on the business and enterprise side rather than the technology side.

He said even some of 5G’s ambitious use cases, such as enabling autonomous driving, could already be delivered in some way.

However, the challenge comes in delivering all of the capabilities on a common platform.

“We almost already have autonomous vehicles and we can also already do IoT. But, when you put all of this together on a common platform and provide the ability to deliver services, it is matter of business disruption rather than technology.”

Evolution and revolution
Canadian operator Telus’ CTO of Wireless and 5G, Bernard Bureau (pictured, second from right), said IoT could provide one of the “biggest uplifts”, but it also came down to adapting a business model still focussed on selling connectivity.

“There is very little money to be made in connectivity. The money will be made on the added value and the service. But an operator like us does not have the weight to build the ecosystem. We have to partner with existing technology providers and insert ourselves in the value chain.”

He also believes the big transformational opportunities to emerge from 5G, such as autonomous driving and remote surgery applications, will not be possible at mass scale until around 2021, or even 2022.

Howard Watson, BT’s CEO of Technology Service and Operations (pictured, far right) concurred, adding 5G will see an “evolutionary step and a revolutionary step”.

“The evolutionary step is around the demand for mobile broadband, and will initially drive roll out,” he said.