5G should be regarded as a convergent technology first and foremost rather than merely a mobile capability, according to Lise Fuhr, Director General at the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association.
Addressing a global gathering of telecom professionals at Informa Tech’s Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Fuhr said for the most part European telcos considered 5G to be a “mix of fixed networks, it’s a mix of mobile technology” – but did highlight the need for an overhaul of the typical operators’ business model in the face of the imminent 5G rollout.
“And I think it’s, first and foremost, also about putting intelligence into networks,’ Fuhr added. “5G and broadband are changing our lives, so these are really important for Europe; and they’re important for the European competition, for years to come. That’s why I think the political environment is important for what we do and how we see connectivity here in Europe.”
Fuhr also emphasised the need for operators and stakeholders to clearly chart the challenges as well as the drivers involved with the actual delivery of 5G. “If we are to deliver broadband to all of Europe, and also to actually meet the gigabyte society targets set by the Commission, we need to look into what the challenges are [and] we need to look into the enablers.”
In addition, she advocated a three-pronged 5G strategy for Europe-based operators looking to capitalise on opportunities as part of the rollout, detailing an approach that included more than developing perspectives on investment and policy or regulation.
“And that is, our business models are changing,” Fuhr explained. “We also need to look into how 5G is changing the way we actually have our business models.”
“We are, with 5G, creating a platform for connectivity. We are going to be able to deliver more tailored services to the end users, but also to the industry,” Fuhr said, adding that the traditional siloed outlook on the part of some Europe-focused telcos had been rendered obsolete.
“In Europe we see 5G mostly as an industrial network, and as an industrial business space, and that’s why we need to refocus on how we work. Because now we’re not only telcos; now we need to reach out to other industries,” she said.
Referring to the automotive industry, where connected and automated cars are poised to become important offerings, Fuhr argued that specifical industries will require tailored networks. “They know that they need a specific network to fulfil their requirements, and actually to deliver on automated cars,” she said, noting also that companies like Bosch and Siemens for instance will have varying needs in terms of what possibilities 5G can provide.
“They will need to have networks that are tailored to their industrial manufacturing” said Fuhr. “And that’s why we, as an industry, need to look into how we combine our forces. How we actually work together. Because if we don’t create a relationship, and include these stakeholders in what we do, they might lose trust in us.”
Raising the spectre of some disenchanted stakeholders potentially approaching regulators to apply for spectrum licences to enable them to devise their own mobile networks, Fuhr warned, “And then we’re in another ballgame than we are today. Because we need to be the one delivering on the infrastructure. I think we’re best placed to do so, and we’re experts in it.”
“But, in doing so, we need to accommodate the requirements. We need to accommodate what the consumers, what the industries, want from us,” she said.
Richard van der Draay was in Amsterdam as a guest of Informa Tech