Just two weeks after CEO Gavin Patterson said BT was struggling with the 5G usecase, it has announced a new proof of concept to test and validate smart urban applications over 5G in Bristol.
The PoC will combine research expertise from the University of Bristol, 5G network solutions and radio access points from Nokia and spectrum from BT, to explore and validate the deployment of 5G architecture. You should expect this sort of announcement more regularly over the next couple of months, as telcos looks for a genuine business reason to invest in 5G after years of hyping up the technology as a life save for the digitally enabled and starved alike.
“Connecting our customers and communities together is at the heart of BT’s purpose and we have demonstrated the power of 5G capabilities in driving our ambition in our labs,” said Neil McRae, Chief Architect at BT. “Now, we’re gaining a real-world understanding of how 5G can be used within dense urban environments.
“This is crucial to building meaningful use-cases for future macro-scale 5G networks. 5G is teaching us that collaboration is essential and we’re pleased to be working with experts from Nokia and The University of Bristol to lead research into technologies such as Massive MIMO and Network Convergence and enhance our understanding of the role 5G networks will play in building the connected cities of the future.”
Whether it is a sly-business move to strengthen its hand at the negotiating table, or a genuine absence of concrete ideas, the telcos have been scaling backing their position on the road to 5G. At the Mobile Broadband Forum in London recently, numerous telcos including BT and Vodafone, outlined their concerns over the 5G euphoria. The message was relatively simple; 5G sounds great, but let’s prove it before shelling out the cash.
It is nice to see a bit of common sense in an industry which constantly seems to be chasing a tail, which is in turn becoming shorter and shorter, day by day. The initial deployment in Bristol will examine the optimum models for 5G as part of a future urban dense networks that will maximise coverage and speed. After this the team will focus on more specific usecases.
Part of the initiative will focus on integrating existing technologies with new ones such as Massive MIMO, SDN, network slicing and edge computing nodes functionalities. Not only is the challenge about capacity, but splitting a single physical network into multiple virtual networks, delivering reliable and high-capacity services to several applications and vertical sectors.
And of course, you can’t talk about 5G without bringing IoT into the mix either. How 5G will enable IoT in areas such as immersive tourism and connected transport will impact the decision making capabilities of telcos as we move forward. Right now, a question which needs to be answered is what can 5G offer which 4G can’t offer right now, or when 4G offers gigabit speeds? Is there a need to spend millions on 5G when 4G can satisfy the usecases for the next couple of years?
This is one of the big questions which does need to be answered. Naturally, there will be people who point out the commercial and technological benefits of 5G, but do these benefits outweigh the CAPEX expenditure? At some point, the telcos will have to ask when are they going to start seeing ROI on the network expenses, as opposed to constantly investing in the next big thing. It is a tricky balance to strike, and we don’t get the impression the equation is anywhere near balanced yet.