The GSMA has recently published a report on the commercial implications of LTE evolution to 5G. Real Wireless COO Oliver Bosshard considers its findings.

We are close to a tipping point: mobile broadband as the main form of broadband and not just as a novel alternative to fixed-line networked computing.

The newly published GSMA report Unlocking Commercial Opportunities from 4G Evolution to 5G puts it neatly in a heading that says: ‘Mobile broadband, the perception of infinite bandwidth.’

That perception is growing. End users are already inclined to seek out data and services on the move. And the more you give them, the more they will want. One statistic offered by the GSMA report is that 4G customers are said to consume around double the monthly amount of data that non-4G users consume, and in some cases three times as much. Imagine, therefore, what 5G could mean – especially as devices adapt to deliver the ease of use, as well as the connectivity, that could make a handheld device increasingly the preferred option for broadband communications.

Whatever the expectations, the wireless industry may still underestimate the extraordinary thirst for connectivity end users will show once they get the idea, rightly or wrongly, that their mobile device can do as much as their fixed line computing device and at the same speed. It’s happened before. As many of us at Real Wireless remember, 2G operators massively underestimated voice and text demand and had to work hard to deliver the increased capacity and coverage required.

However, unlike 2G, high 5G demand doesn’t necessarily mean high returns. Whatever the promise of offerings like enhanced mobile broadband, massive internet of things, critical internet of things, optimised services, network slicing and other potential sources of revenue, 5G business models of the 2020s will not be as simple and profitable as the 2G models of the 1990s turned out to be.

So careful planning will be needed. And that isn’t just about network planning but also business modelling to make these networks cost-effective. More than ever, predictive models and network planning tools will need to step up; they will have to fulfil the tricky task of ensuring that networks are built to adapt to need while also guaranteeing a return on investment.

That said, in all the excitement about new 5G-led services, network planning is an area that might sometimes receive less of a focus than it should – but not from Real Wireless. This, not surprisingly, is one of our specialities: on these pages you will find information about our work on (to name only a few) coverage and network performance, interference assessment, antenna location, interference between indoor and outdoor systems, throughput variation within buildings, localised demand, and network dimensioning.

Helping to build and cost the networks that make 5G work will be a critical part of delivering on the promise of mobile broadband – and many other 5G-led services. It will also be one of our biggest challenges. It’s certainly a challenge we’re looking forward to.

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