5G moves beyond the hype at MWC 2018
Berg Insight participated in the MWC for the 14th year in a row.
To little surprise, announcements and solutions on display at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona were largely centred around 5G mobile networks and use cases. The most popular themes highlighted by telecom industry players were industrial networking, virtual reality and applications in the smart city vertical, with the connected car at its core. As I argued in my last year’s post, the transition to 5G networks is about use cases enabled by higher data capacity and lower latency. Although 5G services will bring about far better experiences for smartphone users, the consumer mobile market is heavily saturated. Thereby, revenue growth among mobile network operators will depend on the attractiveness of 5G to vertical industries. It is no longer just about connecting people – it is about connecting everything.

So, where are we on the roadmap to commercial 5G services? Previously scheduled for release in mid-2018, the first 3GPP 5G standards, namely the 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standards, were published in December 2017. This means that network equipment manufacturers and chipmakers can begin to make 5G wireless networks and products based on approved specifications earlier than expected. Trials of 5G mobile networks are already taking place worldwide, with mobile network operators in North America and Asia leading the way. The major network equipment manufacturers Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia have signed 45, 38 and 31 memorandums of understanding with operators respectively and all companies expect to complete some commercial network deployments by the end of 2018.

Among the chipmakers, a couple of big announcements were made during the event. Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 5G Module Solutions that are designed to lower the barriers to entry for device makers looking to commercialise 5G in smartphones and major verticals. Intel announced that the company is partnering with Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft to bring 5G connectivity to Windows systems via its XMM 8000 series of 5G modems. Commercial 5G devices are expected to come online in early 2019.

As 5G is mainly built for IoT and the industrial Internet, strategic partnerships between companies across the information and communications technology sector and the industrial sector are continuously emphasised as a critical component in the commercialisation of 5G services. As part of the broader convergence of information technology and operational technology, the shift to 5G opens the opportunity for telecom industry players to make the network layer more relevant. The use cases are there. Now is the time for mobile network operators to double down on their 5G strategies.

Fredrik Stålbrand, Berg Insigt
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