A fully digital economy depends on universal, good quality connectivity, which will increasingly be wireless to support ubiquity and mobility. Without that, many digital enablers will be impossible to achieve. In a month in which GSMA and the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport issue reports that put connectivity centre stage, we examine the challenges and disruptive alternatives to the status quo.

  1. Match service delivery to real world requirements – In an era in which network slicing will soon be able to facilitate logically separate network sharing of common infrastructure and spectrum, move away from the idea of uniform connectivity. Each sector, service and vertical has different requirements on data rate, reliability, latency and value.
  2. Unleash the power of the network – Split the market between infrastructure operators (netcos) and service providers, not MNOs and over-the-top providers. Allow more services to harness the network itself.
  3. Get creative with spectrum – Technical developments will enable MNOs to use unlicensed spectrum in tandem with licensed spectrum, and allow sharing of all spectrum and infrastructure by different service providers who operate independently – while offering service quality guarantees. Encourage competition between service providers – who can compete on a price versus service basis. Consider opening up new spectrum allocations to be ‘shared’ with organisations that ‘qualify’ – so not unlicensed – but open up the market to all players – who can be tenants on an infrastructure using their own spectrum or paying to share others spectrum.
  4. Get even more creative with spectrum – Some areas have poor mobile connectivity – and these are areas where spectrum is under-utilised. Allow local authorities/communities to take responsibility for improving their infrastructure. If operators choose not to benefit from neutral host provisioning, then authorities can do so and operators should be obliged to support national roaming. This would undoubtedly ruffle feathers, but it would also provide an incentive where the market has, to date, clearly failed
  5. Understand the real value of spectrum – There are misperceptions about the value of future spectrum awards (the marginal value of what’s to come will be significantly less than governments are used to). Real Wireless believes the spectrum release process should prioritise the economic and social benefits of connectivity over a one-off injection of revenue from auctions – this will encourage a longer term view of investment in a service rather than the short term view of the cost of the spectrum.
  6. Forge new value chains – The mobile business model is subject to change. Increasingly, mobile access will be requested by and funded via apps and services instead of a fixed or mobile subscription. The market structure to support this will challenge the traditional telecoms model and require a market structure to allow innovation without removing viable competitive players.
  7. Simplify deployment processes – Network deployment and maintenance is a slow, cumbersome and expensive process. This is usually blamed on planning and regulation and there is undoubtedly a great deal that needs to be done in this context. But operators and vendors must also look to their internal processes to identify how they can simplify and improve delivery. How many engineers and touch points are really required before a small cell or DAS goes live?
  8. Make the most of what you’ve got – Globally, many operators are struggling to transform their operational practices to utilise software driven system enhancements to LTE; increasing the utility of automation and AI. Real Wireless believes that it’s in everyone’s interests to invest in software and systems skills and in testbeds for all kinds of wireless, not just 5G. This is crucial to achieve a digital economy, and critical in laying the foundations for future networks where competitive advantage will derive from software oriented innovation paradigms.
  9. Open up access to sites and fibre – Today, mobile operators are monitored to ensure that there is effective competition. However, MNOs rely on a supply chain to deliver their services. In some areas, MNOs are subject to monopolistic or oligopolistic practice from landowners, backhaul providers or commercial property owners. Where landowners have a monopoly on large swathes of land or property, the community loses the economic benefit of connectivity. Competition in the supply chain to MNOs should be subject to review – and comparison to the costs borne by other utility providers.
  10. Incentivise best practise and innovation – Narrow performance gaps between different regions through regulation and incentives, measuring quality of service and quality of experience, not just coverage.

If you want more information or simply want to feedback on our suggestions, please get in contact.

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