The Covid pandemic dramatically increased our personal and professional dependency on connectivity which, in turn, has accelerated the pace at which 5G networks are deployed. Amid the growing enthusiasm for the new generation of wireless technology and the next generation services it promises to usher in, it is worth considering how 5G will benefit telco CIOs in their own operations. It’s my belief that there is potential for 5G and wireless cellular to bring straightforward benefits for telco CIOs in their own operations as they provide data access for employees working from home or remotely. 5G architecture can be tailored to the service telcos require, and CIOs can leverage this benefit across their organizations. Cloud-based services can be scaled, sized, and located according to the needs of each CIO. The most significant transformation in 5G is not really in wireless or radio technology, but is focused on the architecture and what is happening with Service-Based Architecture (SBA). This allows the network architecture to be optimized for the service it is due to deliver, whether that be latency or bandwidth sensitivity. Successfully leveraging SBA on a single network infrastructure will enable CIOs to cost-optimize their data access and delivery based upon the services the CIO desires to deliver.
Another important question to ponder is whether 5G will enable the technology team and its leader to become a key data orientated element to a telecoms business. Given that a key construct of 5G is that the cloud native infrastructure allows technology teams to build various elements closer to the end user - or closer to wherever the data is required - this will give technology teams increased flexibility and the ability to deploy a greater variety of applications than was previously available. Telecoms businesses’ strategies stretch far beyond 5G, but as an access technology, 5G cellular will certainly be part of the solution, along with other access mediums, to provide access to data for people and machines and bringing it into the cloud.
Tying into megatrends
Of course, as with any major infrastructure deployment, one of the considerations will center on how it will drive revenue growth; and, in this case, whether that will be easier with 5G services or harder. On that matter, I think that for MNOs operating mobile broadband services, 5G services won’t facilitate revenue growth – more probable is that introducing 5G will allow these companies to hold revenue and keep pace. It is evident across the commercial launches that we have seen that end consumers are not paying more for faster download speeds. The technology is currently being used primarily as a tool for cost optimization or to deliver services more efficiently. 5G technology means these companies can be building high-capacity access networks at a lower cost per bit. Revenue growth will come in differentiating services over time and this is where market players other than MNOs can benefit. The ease or difficulty of revenue growth will strongly depend on who you are and what opportunities you’re going after. This is true also for CIOs - the savings will come first, and then companies will begin to explore other areas of revenue growth.
Externally, 5G ties in with many other exciting megatrends, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities for example. Internally, it can also tap into another one, namely on the subject of how CIO’s digital transformation programs can help telcos in their quest to become 5G service providers. I would say that there are more opportunities in this 5G era to become a wireless service provider than previously. If we look ahead in 5G technology, one of the things that is very interesting about this era and what is happening with moving into the 5G timeframe is that the technology and the infrastructure allows more entrants into the market. Telcos on quests to become 5G service providers no longer have to rely on getting wireless service from MNOs, as they formerly would have had to do. Our strategy involves talking to and enabling not just network operators, but also other service providers who are looking to enter this field. In the past the mobile space has been dominated by the large MNOs who have licensed spectrum across whole geographies or whole countries. What we are now seeing is more opportunities with developing 5G architecture for additional players to enter this space, providing a range of specialized services, such as for healthcare or industry. 5G technology and architecture allows IT companies and service providers to enter this space where they previously could not have. Part of this increased opportunity also falls to regulatory matters, with the spectrum becoming available to players on a more regionalized and localized basis. Markets with a forward-looking view on this topic - such as Germany, and even the UK - have allowed that market to develop where smaller entities can apply for spectrum for 5G services.
Perhaps the most intriguing question to ask though is whether IT plays a role in creating savings that can be invested in the infrastructure required to offer a 5G network. I’d say that IT savings over the long term are one of the initial drivers for 5G network investment. You’re getting a more efficient access medium for data transfer, and this is particularly relevant for new entrants into this space who won’t have to build or manage all the legacy 2G, 3G, and 4G networks to support their 5G network.
I think I can be confident in saying that we are not alone in being extremely excited about all of the opportunities that 5G presents, for telcos, mobile service providers, citizens and consumers alike.
Mark Gilmour, Head of Mobile Connectivity Solutions, Colt Technology Services