MWC: 5G is still the elephant in some rooms

So it’s great, really great, that so many people are doing so much on 5G and making so many announcements about it and its trillionaire future, but…

While the stuff about how fast you’ll be able to download a movie via 5G running at 7.5 Gbps (1 second) is fun and I like one wag’s comment, quoted in the Financial Times, that everyone’s talking about 5G because there isn’t anything else to talk about.

We need to be careful. There’s too much babbling about network technologies and comparisons with the generations that have gone before and use cases. It’s like the story of a whole lot of blindfolded people who are each given a bit of the elephant to touch, then asked to describe the whole. They fail – the wispy end of the tale and the huge feet are no indicators of the trunk or overall shape and size of the beast! And as with 5G, it’s the sum of whole thing that’s the key, not facets of it. Although as facets go, the stuff to really get excited about is network slicing and microservices, not how fast you can download a movie.

As Nik Willetts, Deputy CEO, TM Forum, says, “The business case for 5G needs a fifth-generation business to use it fully: 5G is all about business transformation, not just a new, faster technology.”

The role of grit and grace

The good news is there are lots of people who get this, but I was particularly taken by the way Ericsson’s President and CEO expressed it at the analyst briefing at Mobile World Congress yesterday.

Ericsson’s Börje Ekholm said, “5G will transform all industries, and our customers are already gearing up for the future by evolving their 4G networks. This is the key foundation to enable the automation and business transformation needed for the Internet of Things, as well as data-hungry services like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.”

In a new study, Ericsson predicts a $1.23 trillion market by 2026 that will be addressed by 5G. Ekholm said, “This means that industries see the value of 5G and we will be there to grasp that opportunity.”

He also summed up the human side of digital transformation beautifully:

“It takes grit and grace – and team spirit – to succeed on the digital frontier.”

Never a truer word has been spoken.


About The Author

Snr Director, Research & Media

Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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