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Monday, October 29, 2018

Quick thoughts on 5G

I've been doing a lot of work - and events - on 5G recently. 
I've noticed a few recent shifts in perception and focus amongst vendors, regulators and operators. Some quick take-outs (a few more than appear on my similar LinkedIn post, as I'm not limited to 1300 characters!)
  • 5G smartphones launch in 2019, but will be low-volume until 2020/21. Expect the first 5G iPhone towards the end of 2020
  • Fixed-wireless use cases for 5G are high on the agenda in some markets (eg US, S Korea, Turkey, Germany), but seemingly almost absent in others.
  • Commercial, large-scale, automated network slicing only becomes real from around 2023 onwards. A few "hand-carved" slices will be sooner, for example for internal use by MNOs' own business units, or perhaps public safety
  • URLLC (ultra-reliable low latency) use-cases seem to have shifted from sci-fi fantasies around automated vehicles and surgical robots, to industrial IoT and factory automation... 
  • ... but industrial use will often be controlled by industry itself, via one of several forms of private network, either using shared spectrum, private cores or private slices / enterprise MVNOs. MNOs' role may be minor
  • Some claim that NB-IoT is the 5G version for "massive IoT", despite it being developed as a 4G variant. This is revisionist nonsense; if it was true then DT, VF and others would have been putting out PR 2+ years ago, claiming to be first to launch 5G
  • 3.5GHz should be OK-ish outdoors but will struggle with outdoor-to-indoor coverage. mmWave will be worse. Beware of demos showing good indoor performance - ask about uplink from inside-out, or whether signals penetrate double-glazing, or at oblique angles to walls/windows. In any case, #WiFi will continue to dominate in the home.
  • There will be some small-cells and neutral-host deployments for 3.5GHz (and similar bands) in enterprises and other large buildings, but this will take a long time to become widespread. 
  • Existing in-building DAS systems will need some serious upgrades to support higher 5G frequency bands - most of today's top out at 2.6GHz and can't handle MIMO very well.
  • Despite it not being an "official" 5G candidate band, 28GHz seems to be the most popular option, at least for test networks. This is partly because of chipset support, notably Qualcomm's X50. The European-proposed 26GHz hasn't seen much action yet
  • Two of the largest 5G "verticals" associations, for Automotive (5GAA) and Industrial (5GACIA) seem to be heavily driven by German companies - and the German regulator looks like it's going to award 100MHz of spectrum to verticals directly (not 100% certain but getting clearer). In other countries apart from the US (CBRS) and China (Huawei's enterprise LTE), there doesn't seem to be as much action from large firms knocking on the regulator/governments doors.
  • The 5G New Core is getting a lot of discussion and attention... but given that some of the existing NFV deployments have been slow, and the cost-savings somewhat illusory, I don't expect much near-term action on this.
  • Some of the visions for 5G seem to lean heavily on automation and AI back-office for optimising radio, core, user-plane etc. Yet those are also still at an early stage - and few telcos have many skilled engineers -  so could act as a brake. There are also some emerging questions on security of network AI, and whether the algorithms might be single points of failure, especially when used for networks used for critical national infrastructure. 
  • Connected-car companies are interested in 5G, but not as enthusiastic as some might imagine. One told me "it's a nice-to-have" - especially as vehicles will need to be able to work offline, and have prodigous on-board compute capabilities.
  • I'm more positive about some of the discussion around Cloud RAN for 5G. In many ways, it's going to be necessary, given the complexity of NR. That said, there's some serious practical challenges about the radio, such as the size/weight/cost of the massive-MIMO antennas.
  • There's lots of talk about network-slicing for 5G, but nobody has really thought about whether today's MNO wholesale departments are up to the task of selling "slice as a service". Speaking to some of today's MVNOs, it seems like they will have to do a lot of homework before they can become effective slicemongers.
That's a quick list of things off the top of my head. Plenty more observations and comments to come, or on my Twitter feed from various events I've attended.

If you'd like me to give an unvarnished presentation at an event, on "5G opportunities, realities & myths", please get in touch via:  information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com
And if you're interested in my last point, on 5G+MVNOs+Slicing+Wholesale, please look at my upcoming workshop doing a deep-dive on this (link)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book now! MVNOs + 5G + Network-Slicing: Small-group Seminar & Workshop, London, 4th December

NEW: 5G, MVNOs, Mobile Wholesale & Network-Slicing Workshop

On December 4th 2018, Dean Bubley will run a small-group workshop in London, covering one of the most interesting topics in telecoms technology and mobile business models: 

What does 5G, NFV & Network-Slicing mean for MVNOs & other wholesale models? 

The day will have a maximum of 25 attendees to ensure a high level of discussion and interaction. 

Expect a diverse mix of telcos, MVNO/E/As, network vendors, software developers, regulators and other interested parties such as enterprises, IoT specialists, investors and consultants. It is suitable for C-level executives, strategists, product management, marketing functions, CTO office, analysts and regulatory affairs specialists.

The event is being run together with partners Mobilise Consulting (link)

The workshop will run under Chatham House rules (link), to allow candid & confidential discussion, without external attribution of comments to individuals or their employers.

It will cover:
  • Technology, including 5G New Radio, New Core, network-slicing and NFV/cloud
  • Business models, spanning consumer, enterprise & IoT markets
  • Regulatory and economic aspects of both 5G and MVNO domains

We'll be highlighting our current thinking - and outstanding questions - on topics such as: 

  • When should MVNOs expect 5G networks to launch & become important? What  changes, compared to 4G?
  • What needs to be done NOW to align with future 5G/NFV wholesale models?
  • Can existing "full" MVNOs with 4G cores upgrade and integrate easily?
  • What's happening with 5G smartphones & IoT devices? What new / different relationships are needed with OEMs?
  • Is “network slicing” really an evolution of today’s wholesale and MVNO model? 
  • What 5G use-cases hold the most promise for wholesale: fixed access, mobile broadband, massive IoT or low-latency / ultra-reliable?
  • Are 5G standards bodies, regulators & vendors giving enough (any?) thought to the needs of MVNOs? 
  • Will we move from a 2-tier MNO/MVNO model, to a 3-tier Infrastructure / Network Service / Tenant model? How would that change the role of today’s full MVNOs and MVNE/As?
  • Will 5G mean more enterprise, IoT and vertical MVNOs? 
  • What are the impacts of changing 5G spectrum & wholesale regulations? What new areas that policymakers should consider?
  • Will we see hybrid MNO/MVNO/WiFi operators? 
  • What are the main consumer 5G use cases for MVNXs? Will it enable more video streaming, AR/VR, gaming or other applications? Or just more data?
  • Will the new 5G core network architecture make a difference?
  • What changes to service provision, billing and QoS will impact MVNOs with 5G?
  • Where do neutral-host networks (eg for in-building or rural coverage) & private 5G networks fit in to the story?
  • Along with 5G, what does NFV, SDN, cloud-native, eSIM and edge-computing mean for MVNOs?
  • Will we see new charging/rating models with 5G or will it be much the same as 4G?
  • Will it be possible to be a 5G-only MVNO?
It is probably too early to give definitive answers to all these questions - but the workshop will cover all these areas, and certainly outline the gaps in today's knowledge, wholesale enablers and regulation. 
The workshop will take place at the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, central London [link]. It will run from 9am-5pm, with plenty of time for networking and interactive discussion. Come prepared to think and talk, as well as listen – this is a “lean-forward” day. Coffee and a nice lunch are included. A full agenda will be circulated nearer the time. 

The workshop facilitators will be Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis, plus Hamish White & Amr Houssein of Mobilise.

Booking & Payment

There are PayPal Buy Now buttons below, which can accept card payments as well as PayPal transfers. Alternatively, contact information at disruptive-analysis dot com if you want to be invoiced directly, and use purchase-order & bank-transfer. Payment can also be made in EUR or USD.

Pricing for attendance:

  • Early bird £499+VAT booked before Nov 1 (now expired)
  • £699+VAT after Nov 1
  • 15% discount for 2 attendees booked at the same time (max 2 from any one company)
  • (UK VAT @20% must be charged to attendees from any country, as the service is delivered in the UK. There are two separate payment options below, as PayPal only automatically adds VAT for UK accounts

UK Payments:

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