It’s not unusual to observe that in the period after the summer break conference activity significantly increases, but this autumn in particular has been more than usually eventful. Along with our ongoing consultancy and advisory work, Real Wireless has had a presence at several events and three conferences consolidated our thinking: RAN World in Rome in early October, the Network Slicing World Summit in Berlin in late October and, in early November in London, a Small Cell SIG event called Small Cells: Realising the 5G Opportunity for Pioneering Spectrum Access – Beyond Exclusive Licensing.
All three events offered insights into potentially important aspects of both 5G and telecoms market models – some overlapping, some very distinct, but all very valuable. More detailed reviews of the three events will appear on this website soon, but I thought it might be useful to begin with an overview of the general themes that emerged across the three areas.
Not surprisingly, RAN World and the Network Slicing World Summit did overlap. However, neither conference looked at network slicing as an imminent business proposition. Both events made it clear that, however desirable it may be to have a business model based on it, network slicing is, for now, an industrial research topic.
There’s still a long way to go, especially with dynamic slicing, whose complexities we are well aware of through our work with 5G projects like MoNArch and NORMA. It’s not uncommon now – as the complexity of the slicing scenarios is acknowledged – for proponents to bundle in an AI capability that is going to be needed. To some extent this reflects the wireless industry desire to be seen to be on the cutting edge of AI adoption. However, it is also a tacit acknowledgement that the slicing concept has inherent complexity. Don’t, therefore, expect this too soon – and possibly never for pure mobile broadband data propositions.
That said, there were a lot of important contributions to the longer-term aim of making network slicing a commercial reality. I chaired one session on security and another on operators providing what the verticals expect and need. Both offered some interesting pointers to the – still theoretical – future of network slicing.
As for RAN World, the main headlines would most likely be around virtualisation and verticals: how a lot of the innovative approaches on virtualisation are actually coming through IT and enterprise-oriented thinking and what the role of virtualised platforms might be in unlocking the potential of the verticals. Related questions include the desirability (and in some countries likelihood) of exclusive ownership of spectrum. Would operator-led deployments of networks and solutions for verticals flow from that?
There was also some discussion – notably in the Real Wireless-chaired Virtualisation and C-RAN working group meeting – about the merits and demerits of C-RAN and centralisation. Could terms like vRAN be helping to shift the solution discussion away from the cloud and squarely onto the virtualisation value proposition?
The Cambridge Wireless and UK5G-hosted Small Cell SIG event, meanwhile, focused on a number of areas, and notably the non-exclusive ownership model: in particular neutral hosts and how they could bring more capital into the market for infrastructure investment. Of course, related to that are market expansion opportunities – a concern of the DCMS Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which was itself a focus of some discussion at the event.
These areas of focus certainly touched on many of our own interests and concerns. Real Wireless is already involved in venues, transport and indoor solutions and we’re aware that our clients may benefit from having more flexibility on accessing spectrum, and that this in turn could open up the market and expand it. With this in mind, its interesting that there has been a noticeable uptick in neutral host company activities – not just in terms of the presence of such companies in conferences, but in terms of real increases in investment in the neutral hosting business. Neutral hosts should be an important driver of flexibility in spectrum access and making it happen.
I’ll be addressing these and other issues in some forthcoming blogs specific to the events previewed here, all of which have been part of a busy autumn – which looks like pointing the way towards an even busier 2019.