LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MBB FORUM 2019, ZURICH: GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair (pictured) flagged energy costs as a key challenge in a 5G environment, noting operators have an opportunity to help both themselves and other verticals boost efficiency.

Sinclair highlighted increased costs as one of several “teething problems” operators face with the transition to 5G. While there are a variety of ways to reduce costs, for instance by retiring 2G and 3G networks or introducing innovative front- and backhaul solutions, he said increasing energy efficiency will be one of the most important steps they can take.

“Opex is always significant and it’s increasing. With 5G, you might see that per site going up by two- to three-times. So energy efficiency is always going to be important.”

He noted more than 50 operators are already taking this on as part of a GSMA-led initiative to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. He added operators can also “do a lot for other verticals to help make them more efficient as well”, by enabling new use cases which allow companies to monitor their consumption of resources.

Sinclair said operators are also tackling other 5G obstacles, including limited spectrum availability and increased complexity around network slicing, virtualisation and other technologies. For instance, while virtualisation offers “potentially enormous” benefits, he said some operators have found not all of the virtualised network functions can be easily ported to different platforms.

Despite these hurdles, Sinclair said 40 operators have already launched mobile and fixed 5G. He said the technology is “gearing up quite well”, with mass deployments expected by 2025.

“It’s faster than 4G, but there’s a very long way to go…There are a large number of challenges that we all have to face, but the opportunity is there as well”.