Fueling the 5G Engine: Key Takeaways from MBBF 2022, 5G

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BANGKOK – Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2022 – Mobile operators need to collaborate more and come up with compelling innovations if they are to reap the financial benefits of their network investments, especially when it comes to seizing opportunities in the business domain.

This was the main conclusion of this year’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF), which was attended by senior mobile operator executives and other ecosystem players from different parts of the world. Huawei’s global influence in telecommunications infrastructure may be waning, but it remains the world’s largest network technology provider and can still draw a crowd (although of course it generates a large chunk of its activity as a transport unit with the three main Chinese operators).

Huawei’s rotating chairman Ken Hu (pictured above), which appeared on stage as a hologram (an increasingly popular way to impress conference and meeting audiences), noted that 5G was already “in the fast lane”, with 230 commercial networks and over 700 million subscribers worldwide in just three years. the first service is launched.

While this is significant progress, Hu echoed many other players in the telecom sector in noting that the industry needs to do more to unlock the full value of 5G, which he said would help generate economic activity and help the “struggling” global economy.

Hu was optimistic that 5G can be “a key enabler of digital transformation” for businesses, though it’s hardly something the industry hasn’t heard of before. “5G’s wide coverage and faster speeds are perfect for scenarios like smart grids and smart transportation. In other areas like mining and manufacturing, companies can leverage the reliability of 5G and fast uplink” for remote inspections and monitoring, he added. All of this, he pointed out, can digitize industries and “unlock new growth for carriers.”

Major Chinese carriers generated $500 million in revenue from enterprise 5G connectivity services in 2021, according to Hu, and these services have, in turn, generated ten times that value from services beyond connectivity, such as data and integrated ICT services, although of course such financial projections are difficult to qualify.

While the focus is on the potential of 5G services in the enterprise market, more needs to be done in the consumer mass market sector, Hu noted, even just by creating new “premium packages that guarantee speed and low latency”.

Huawei’s rotating chairman called for collaboration to build networks and optimize them for different types of user experiences, such as those based on video apps. Hu also pushed for the adoption of the next stage in the evolution of 5G – which Huawei calls 5.5G but is more widely known as 5G-Advanced – for innovations such as extended reality and gaming. in cloud.

“To continue to push the experience to the next level, we also need to push the network capabilities to the next level. 5.5G is the way forward. Working with carriers and industry partners, we’ve come up with four features for 5.5G networks: 10Gbps downlink, 1Gbps uplink, support for 100 billion connections and native intelligence,” Hu said.

Thomas Hundt, director of strategy and technology at Axiata Group, agreed with Hu’s call for collaboration with the industry, adding that it will help the telecommunications group to manage the increase in capital expenditure. “We think this tsunami of capex that we have to constantly manage is very, very difficult for us to bear, but also the infrastructure and the assets that we have to put in play are ultimately better used if we share, if we collaborate in the industry and partner,” he said.

The Thai 5G market

Thailand’s two largest mobile operators, Advanced Info Service (AIS, which has around 44 million customers and a 46% market share) and True (which has around 32 million customers but is being merged with dtac to form what would become the country’s largest carrier) expect 5G adoption to grow in the Southeast Asian country now that more affordable devices are generally available.

It was only last month that entry-level 5G models from Samsung, Xiaomi and other brands were released in Thailand at prices below $200, noted Saran Phaloprakarn, head of mobile product department. and general public at AIS Thailand. The operator has also implemented a 5G handset subsidy strategy, which has improved the ecosystem, he added.

Going forward, AIS Thailand will focus on network slicing, as well as the high throughput and low latency capabilities of 5G, but Phaloprakarn warned that such features will require a more advanced 5G ecosystem and the deployment of a spectrum of millimeter waves (mmWave). which, in turn, is only useful if handsets supporting these frequencies are available.

“We hope that this year, or maybe next year, there will be mmWave devices and an ecosystem [that is] ready for us to deploy enhanced mobile broadband and unlock the potential of 5G,” he said, noting that the benefits of customers switching from 4G to 5G include faster data connections and more reliability, agile automation and efficiency gains.

These views were shared by AIS’ main rival in the market, True, with the company’s co-group commercial director, Tanaphon Manavutiveth, also stressing the importance of a mature ecosystem. “The key success factor for us here in Thailand is that the ecosystem is ready” and many factors play a role, such as profitability and support from regulators and the Thai government in general, he said.

Manavutiveth touted the market as one of the top 5G adopters in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region. Technology adoption is at 9.2%, the second highest behind Singapore, which has a penetration rate of 13.9%. He also noted that Thailand’s 5G subscriber base is expected to reach nearly 10 million by the end of the year. Shipments of handsets capable of supporting the technology have steadily increased from 5% last year to 15% of the total number of mobile devices shipped in 2022.

True’s Manavutiveth added that the company is eager to collaborate and work on 5G use cases: “We are looking to help scale 5G to grow as quickly as possible.

– Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, TelecomTV

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