Operators urged to find compelling B2B use cases for 5G

5G has the capability to bring froward a number of use cases for the business-to-business sector, says Innovate UK

Mobile operators need to do a better job of defining compelling business-to-business (B2B) use cases for 5G beyond talking up the increase network speed, according to non-departmental public body, Innovate UK.

Previous generations of the technology have been keenly adopted, but operators have found some of their predictions about how businesses will seize on 3G and 4G to change the way they have work come to nothing.

This is according to Jonny Voon, innovation lead of IoT and distributed ledger at Innovate UK, who gave a post-event interview to Computer Weekly, following the Digital Festival in Cardiff on 18 September.

“With 3G, they spent £26bn on spectrum and they realised with their investments that people weren’t really using the killer apps they thought of – like video calling and so forth. With 4G, the spend on spectrum was around £2bn, so a massive drop,” he said.

The challenge for operators around 5G is finding compelling use cases for the B2B community by talking up how the high-speed connections it offers will make it easier for people to work remotely, for example.

“The aim for 5G is to find the use cases, rather than just say, ‘It’s a faster version, it’s a new chance to sell handsets’,” said Voon. “How can you go beyond the consumer and really offer a B2B experience that people have been expecting?”

Another way of marketing the technology to B2B users could be to focus on how the low-latency connections it provides, which can help safe-guard the performance of mission-critical applications.

“Realistically, we’re going to get perhaps Gbps in mobile broadband speeds. At that speed, you’re now looking at potentially a full replacement for any fixed-line services,” he said. “It’s essentially as near to real-time as we can probably imagine.”

The technology also has the potential to streamline communications between devices and machines, which could have positive implications for the internet of things (IoT).

Read more about 5G

  • Ofcom CEO, Sharon White, says that the mobile operators, which are holding up the spectrum auction, could risk the UK’s chances of being a world leader in 5G. 
  • A University of Cambridge study has said that the government needs to focus on ensuring a consistent 5G service, rather than setting unrealistic speed requirements. 
  • The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been granted a fund of £25m to test 5G mobile network technology.

“This is going into purely machine-to-machine communication, and allowing a large number of sensors to talk to each other efficiently with great quality of service, without the need to have to always go back to a hub to communicate,” he said.

Voon covered 5G as part of his future of technology presentation at the Digital Festival. More than 2,000 people attended the conference, which featured innovators discussing areas such as smart cities, IoT and GDPR. Startups also used the event to showcase their ideas and business plans. 

However, Voon is of the view that commercialisation of the technology is still a few years away. “We’re expecting in 2020-2021 that commercial networks will start becoming available on the business or enterprise side of things, but then slowly build up for consumer technologies for things like handsets, AR and VR technologies to become available,” he said.

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