BARCELONA, Spain – 5G has a number of challenges before it becomes reality, but those surrounding making money from 5G are some of the most challenging. During a panel discussion at this week’s Mobile World Congress 2018, speakers from some of the world’s largest operators and vendors agreed that the enterprise market is key to help pay for 5G.
“It’s the elephant in the room,” said Andre Fuetsch, CTO of AT&T Labs, during the session. “From our standpoint we think you need to build the initial 5G use cases around the enterprise. It’s about how you can help businesses meet their objectives and needs.”
Fuetsch laid out a handful of examples, diving deep into the notion of using 5G and 4G LTE to replace WiFi inside of enterprise locations. He noted that hosted virtual desktops using 5G or LTE access points can provide better security and more control by IT departments.
“This is a big opportunity from a cost point to get these enterprises an alternative to WiFi,” Fuetsch said. “These can provide better experiences because of low latency and control that LTE and 5G will bring.”
Fredrik Jejdling, vice president and head of business area networks at Ericsson, built on that sentiment, noting enterprises should be enticed by 5G for the real benefits it provides compared with 4G LTE.
“5G has a longer enterprise view,” Jejdling said. “It’s not just about having a faster Android or iPhone.”
Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, group CTO for Deutsche Telekom, added that software-enabled 5G advances like network slicing provide operators “with the chance to serve our customers best, for having a real business case for 5G. There is just currently not enough of a case to build a new network.”
Another aspect of the 5G equation is the increasing use of software to help drive down the cost of deployments to then feed more diverse use cases. AT&T has been one of the more aggressive operators in terms of its push into the software space, which it views as a critical step on the road to 5G.
“We believe that software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) is so critical because frankly it’s a foundational tenant of 5G,” Fuetsch said. “A lot of work to bring in SDN into our network is paving the road to 5G. This is significant and also gives us a competitive edge in the markets we serve.”
Fuetsch noted that AT&T managed to surpass – if just – its network virtualization goals for 2017 by 1 percent, hitting 56 percent control by the end of last year. The carrier is now setting a goal of 65 percent control for the end of 2018, on its way to more than 75 percent by the end of 2020.
This work, in turn, will fuel the carrier’s push in finding the use cases necessary to pay for the move.
“The current LTE world is still limited in terms of what can be connected,” Fuetsch said, noting it’s hard to make the economics work for massive Internet of Things (IoT) to work with 5G. “That’s where the growth opportunity is. … That’s where 5G will allow for cost allocations and to slice networks into profitable use cases.”
Photo (L-R): Fredrik Jejdling, vice president and head of business area networks at Ericsson; Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, group CTO for Deutsche Telekom; Andre Fuetsch, CTO at AT&T Labs; Dora Petranyi, CMS MD, Central Eastern Europe.