4 predictions about telecom and 5G in 2020

Dec. 12, 2019
What will happen with 5G spectrum, indoor coverage, and Huawei? Telecom execs weigh in.

As we approach 2020, executives from Cobham Wireless, Amdocs Open Network, Parallel Wireless and BICS have weighed in on what they see coming with some of the hottest technical topics in telecom.

Here are their outlooks.

5G indoor coverage will gather momentum
Ingo Flomer, VP business development and technology, Cobham Wireless

For many building owners, there’s currently not the financial incentive to create the kind of 5G user experience touted by the press. Most of us are happy today with the performance we receive when using our phones, or else don’t really give it a second thought. This will change when 5G devices become more affordable and more widespread, and new 5G use cases are developed. This means building owners will have to be ready.

In 2020, building owners will request that current wireless coverage systems be easily upgradeable to 5G. This offers the perfect, cost-effective solution. Venue owners and operators want longevity and ROI for purchases; what they don’t want is to have to buy a whole new system in a year or two, as demand for 5G in-building coverage grows.

From a technical standpoint, upgrading platforms to 5G will mean wider frequency bands (e.g. 400 MHz in band 3.5). I expect 3.5 GHz to be in most indoor environments, however, this will not increase coverage: 3.5 GHz is all about boosting capacity. Ethernet-based protocols will be used in order to increase data-transport efficiency, supporting the transport of more RF on the same digital bandwidth.

Innovation in spectrum will enable the rise of new 5G players
Angela Logothetis, CTO, Amdocs Open Network

As incumbent communication service providers (CSPs) move to 5G, they will need more—and a broader range of—spectrum ranging form low to high band. In 2020, we will see innovation in spectrum to deal with this demand. Expect to see billions of dollars in spectrum auctions, as operators learn where and how to best use spectrum such as millimeter-wave to deploy technologies that increase efficiency and support “re-farmed” spectrum.

5G will also see new, disruptive players entering the market in smart cities, IoT devices and private networks. All these new players will also require spectrum, driving innovation in regulation and allocation. Multiple countries, including the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK are already regulating bands of spectrum to be available through shared and priority access, and to be dedicated to enterprise applications. But in 2020, as 5G begins to take hold, this will encourage innovation, disruption, and competition in that market. Traditional CSPs will evolve to open cloud networks, network sharing, network slicing and new spectrum to attain the cost structures, agility and innovation to compete in 5G.

Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson will lose out to open-minded vendors
Steve Papa, CEO, Parallel Networks

The traditional radio access network (RAN) vendors—such as Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson—risk becoming outdated in networks that are demanding openness and flexibility. The closed nature of their technology means that operators are unable to use multiple vendors in their networks, which means it is very difficult and expensive to adapt and upgrade the technology once it’s been deployed.

As we enter the 5G era, this traditional, closed model for building a RAN is no longer sustainable. In developed markets, the race to deliver 5G is in full swing and operators are spending considerable amounts building out their next-generation networks. They need a new approach that will allow them to deploy and cost-effectively run 5G technology efficiently alongside their 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

2019 saw significant moves toward OpenRAN, illustrated by Vodafone’s announcement that it would be opening its entire RAN in Europe to OpenRAN vendors during TIP Summit. In 2020, the momentum behind OpenRAN will continue to grow as other operators realize it can help them reduce costs, drive more competition between technology vendors, and stimulate higher levels of innovation in the industry.

People and ‘things’ on the move will drive 5G roaming—and drive operator revenues
Mikaël Schachne, CMO and VP Mobility and IoT Business, BICS

2020 will be another 5G-focused year; we’ll see more 5G roaming trials, fueled by both consumer and business use cases, enabling next-generation connectivity to go global. During the summer this year, we reported that data roaming traffic across Asia had surged 245% over the 12 months to June—an uplift driven in part by increased adoption of roaming, new tariffs plans, travel SIMs and IoT devices across the continent.

This isn’t limited to Asia. We also found that Q1 2019 outbound roaming traffic from Asia to Europe and the Middle East increased by 88% compared to Q1 2018, and inbound roaming volumes from the same regions grew by 81%. As 5G adoption increases, 5G roaming traffic will follow a similar pattern, and surge on an international scale.

Subscribers are enjoying more international travel and expecting the same quality of service wherever they are. Sectors like the connected automotive industry and consumer electronics, on the other hand, will become increasingly reliant on cross-border, ultra-reliable, low-latency connectivity.

Monetizing 5G roaming will be a priority for operators, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will present a means of doing just that. Companies operating in the IIoT have the funds and financial incentive to invest in and pay for 5G connectivity and, as many have a global footprint, will also be able to invest in and pay for 5G roaming.

We’ll see the IIoT benefit from remote tracking, robotics, efficiencies in productivity and project management, and automation, while operators can unlock a major revenue opportunity and continue to monetize a core part of their service offering.        

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