Optus has announced more of its customers will be amongst the first Australians to experience Optus 5G Home Broadband with select customers in Bonnyrigg and Minchinbury in Sydney’s west, Niagara Park on the NSW Central Coast, Cook in the ACT and Kenmore outside of Brisbane being offered the opportunity to experience 5G by the end of the month, following an expression-of-interest campaign launched in January.
Dennis Wong, Optus Networks Managing Director said the first commercial Optus 5G Home Broadband service in Glendenning in Sydney’s west had already achieved peak download speeds of 295Mbps and an average download speed of 100Mbps.
“Our peak download speed achieved at our launch in the ACT in January demonstrated download speeds of 170Mbps, so a 50% increase in peak speeds in just a few months shows the rapid evolution and advancement of the 5G ecosystem, which is exciting news for Optus customers.”
Optus is currently testing five different 5G devices in its network including two mobile handsets and three CPEs (customer premise equipment) or home hubs. Wong said while 5G will be a transformative technology, Optus 5G Home Broadband was initially being used for ‘traditional purposes’.
“Our first customers are currently using 5G for video downloads, internet connectivity and browsing but we see exciting 5G consumer applications in the future including a much richer AR and VR gaming experience and improved in-home device connectivity.”
“Despite being in its infancy, we are already gaining valuable insights into the new 5G technology. The technology has matured rapidly over the last few months with more devices being 5G enabled and we are getting a better understanding of how to best tune the technology to improve performance.
“We are also gaining valuable insights around how to adjust our network and its technical features to support interoperability of multiple devices – meaning that a variety of devices from different manufacturers will work on different vendor network hardware.”
Optus recently earmarked its first 5G sites in Victoria with 30 Ericsson sites to be brought online within months.
When 5G comes to mind these days, we think of “is this REALLY it?” and “have we really progressed?”. If you have been in the industry for 10-20 years and have seen how un-fantastic 2G, 3G and 4G have been, you might think “what is this 5G?” and “do I even need to think about it?”.
The feedback so far has not been all positive but mainly due to lack of clarity and awareness on the latest developments. Some people are saying that 5G is not the problem solver, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is not quite what it is made out to be, and if it is just about faster speed, who will pay for it? Some pessimism has been noted from mobile operators and investors but this is also along with some optimism by analysts such as me and vendors.
Here is what I see. I see an enabler. And, I see the spirit of enablement taking shape across the region and around the world. We are truly seeing a new beginning with new ideas moving from trials to commercialization. However, I am a firm believer that “reality” is what we as part of industry make of it.
5G will impact most on transportation and logistics, manufacturing, healthcare, media, education and smart cities. Of all the key verticals highlighted, smart cities might be a good place to start if we are serious about making things happen with 5G. It might just be the place we find some of the more feasible ideas come out and where we find the initial volume to drive 5G at the right price points.
Smart city goals include creating long term economic sustainability, providing a high quality of life for citizens and ensuring safety, resource security and environmental sustainability. Smart city parameters currently define smart technology as covering technologies and services that enable easy access and widespread connectivity. Surely 5G fits within this definition, so why hasn’t it?
5G is here but only few companies have started to really plan their roadmaps with 5G in mind. It is time companies considered how 5G will impact their businesses and their services.
Within what smart city applications can be, we can immediately see how 5G networks can be an enabler of smart city infrastructure. Open a smart city plan and the common bingo words such as artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, internet of things and connected cars appear. The question we might ask at this juncture is, “where does it really fit and how can it make a difference”.
I happened to be in Seoul when 5G was launched in April 2019 and I will tell you this. In my 20 years in this industry, I have never seen such a fight over a technology commercialization launch but what it represented meant a whole lot more. What is the 20 trillion won in South Korea and the US$20 billion dollar in the US allocation for research and development for if no one saw the potential in 5G.
What is missing today are the applications optimized for 5G. Few people will pay US$50-70 per month to use 4G applications on 5G. The good news is that mobile operators know they need more applications and we are going to see more applications come out from South Korea. Not all applications will be replicable and relevant outside of South Korea but nevertheless, they represent positive effort towards monetization of 5G.
After 20 years of hibernation, it seems like our mummy of the telecommunications industry has finally woken up as 5G. We are not sure of its wrath on the world but we think it has got potential.
In most countries, even in Malaysia, prioritization of technology infrastructure is a key aspect of smart cities. Yet for us here in Malaysia, as an example of countries around the world, 5G is still not deeply embedded into smart city development plans. It is common knowledge that 80% of mobile operator traffic originates indoors so it is not hard to see that 5G will be driven by indoor applications.
In fact, Frost & Sullivan conducted as survey at the recent Asia Pacific Spectrum Management 2019 held in Kuala Lumpur in March 2019. We found that 93% of Malaysian respondents said that the availability of digital indoor systems (DIS) is important and 55% said it was needed now. The global numbers were not too different.
This is positive for the industry yet I know from hands on experience that the indoors isn’t the easiest place to transform, especially in Malaysia. The upside to this is the fact that regionally sites are no longer solely owned by mobile operators but increasingly owned by neutral hosts and infrastructure providers. Things are slowly changing and for the better.
I started talking about 5G two years ago. What people liked about it was the potential of 5G to contribute towards growth of GDP and the potential to create the opportunities for new use cases and business models not just for mobile operators but also for the wider industry ecosystem. I also suggested then that mobile operators find initial volume within government projects to get 5G to the right prices for the rest of industry.
To frame 5G around smart cities, we see how open data can drive smart city initiatives. What better technology mine a large amount of data – faster – more sensibly – than with 5G. The only caveat is that the local government in the country in question needs to have already adopted open data.
Based on today’s progress, this is still not universally the case globally.
In March 2019, Malaysia took a step forward with a public-private collaboration to make use of open data to drive smart city initiatives. MAMPU is now working closely with industry technology players such as NetApp. NetApp will provide the government with the much needed data storage and data management architecture to enable the optimization of open data in a safe environment.
Also with 5G, what is reinforced is the need for specific skill set capabilities and the role of integrators to bring together end to end solutions. The formation of industry partnerships is critical for the development of 5G. Here again we can draw parallels with the smart city world.
To be clear, if we were already creating the solutions for smart cities within government,
manufacturing, transportation, logistics, retail, media, healthcare and agriculture, why are we not leveraging more on 5G, especially when it has the characteristics that can drive smart city applications.
The idea is not to scrap the fiber that is in place, even 5G depends on fiber. It might be a better approach to look at the smart city applications that are out there and to see how 5G can help to transform them. Don’t start from scratch but enhance existing plans and potentially achieve better results for every dollar invested over the smart city journey.
In conclusion, it is not about the faster speeds and wider bandwidth that come with 5G. It is about how faster speeds and wider bandwidths can impact businesses and more importantly the consumers. 5G can play a key role as an enabler in local countries progress towards smart nations. It can even potentially power smart cities if set our minds to it. From buildings managed by smartphones to self-sustainable elders, the future is what we as part of industry make of it.
Suggestions that Australia’s fixed line broadband data dominance is set to play second fiddle to mobile broadband services might need a reality check, with wireless broadband accounting for just three percent of the total data downloaded in the December quarter.
The latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) show that the vast majority – 91 percent – of all internet downloads were served by fixed line broadband services in the three months ending December 2018. According to the ACCC, Australians downloaded approximately 5.1 million terabytes in the quarter.
This is despite reports that 5G broadband offerings by some of Australia’s leading mobile telcos have the potential to disrupt the ongoing viability of fixed line broadband services provided by the country’s somewhat beleaguered National Broadband Network (NBN).
According to the ACCC’s Internet Activity Report – December 2018 [PDF], released on 14 May, the total volume of data downloaded in the three months ending December was 5.1 million terabytes, with fibre internet connections accounting for the greatest majority proportion of total; fixed line/wired connections, followed by DSL.
According to the report, there was a substantially smaller amount of data downloaded via mobile handsets and wireless broadband over the same period, with the wireless technologies representing six percent and three percent of the overall data download volume in its entirety during the period.
By comparison, around six percent of the broadband data downloaded in Australia during the period was done so via mobile handsets, and approximately three percent via wireless broadband.
However, the latest figures also show that the most common way consumers accessed the internet during the period was through mobile handsets, with 24.3 million of the estimated 39.9 million broadband services in operation during the quarter being attributed to mobile handsets.
“This report provides a clear indication that while consumers are most often using their phones to access the internet, when downloading significant content they currently favour fixed line connections,” ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.
At the same time, the report suggested that the imminent arrival of 5G products and services will likely support greater increases in the volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets and wireless broadband access technologies.
All in all, the ACCC estimates that the total number of retail broadband services in operation (SIOs) reached 39.9 million as of the end of last year, with 24.3 million of these services made up of mobile handsets, 8.4 million wireless broadband and 7.2 million fixed-line or wired broadband.
To put this into context, Australia’s population was 25,370, 917 at the time of writing, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Nokia has fronted up to MWC 2019 saying its got ‘the right strategy at the right time’ to win at 5G, and heralding a number of ‘world firsts’ in its Australian 5G rollout.
“Nokia arrives at Mobile World Congress as a world leader in 5G, with the industry’s only end-to-end portfolio that is available in all markets around the world,” says Rajeev Suri, Nokia president and chief executive officer.
“We are remarkably well-positioned with more than 20 5G contracts, and almost 100 5G engagements with customers in every region of the world,” Suri says.
“We also believe that there will be a virtuous circle of investment as networks are upgraded to meet the demands of 5G and Nokia has the right portfolio at the right time to meet that need.
The company made a slew of 5G announcements in the lead up to MWC and continued those announcements at the event.
The announcements include the launch of a fixed wireless access FastMile 5G Gateway, delivering 10 to 25-times the speeds of LTE to residential and business subscribers.
Optus is the first operator globally to deploy the indoor gateway in a live network and successfully launch a 5G fixed wireless access service using the 5G New Radio standard.
The plug and play gateway, which Nokia says can achieve twice the indoor coverage, three times the downlink capacity and five time the uplink capacity compared to traditional designs, was recently used to stream 4K video services to some residential customers in Australia in a trial.
Allen Lew, Optus CEO, says the gateway will play an important role in the telco’s commercial 5G fixed-wireless access service.
“With Nokia’s solution, we are able to effectively leverage our existing mobile footprint to quickly provide new ultra-broadband services to customers using 5G FWA.”
Meanwhile a partnership with Vodafone sees the two companies demonstrating two new massive Multiple Input Multiple Output options at MWC: A RFIC based mMIMO antenna and a machine learning powered scheduler for 5G massive MIMO.
The announcements also included the launch of new additions to its AirScale small cells portfolio to extend the performance of 5G indoors and outdoors and enhancements to its Anyhaul transport portfolio to deliver throughput speeds of up to 25Gbps to base stations.
Nokia logged net sales of EUR22.6 billion last finical year, down three percent on the previous year, with operating loss at EUR59 million, up 16 percent year on year.
Nokia is counting on 5G – and that much touted end to end portfolio – to further boost its sales over the coming year, though the company acknowledges that it expects the first half of the year to be ‘soft’ with 5G rollouts staggered over the course of the year.
In announcing the financials earlier this year, Suri said Nokia’s view of a ‘fast and meaningful shift to 5G’ remained unchanged.
While Nokia is banking on 5G, so to are telco operators according to the Nokia 5G Maturity Index, released this week.
The index shows two-thirds of operators expect 5G to create new revenue streams, while more than 70 percent of operators are focused on 5G to help improve existing consumer services.
The most popular 5G use cases identified by operators included multi-gigabit mobile connectivity, connected cars and autonomous vehicles, tactile internet experiences such as augmented and virtual reality, critical healthcare monitoring, smart city apps and smart home services.
Telstra has unveiled plans for a 5G banking trial with CBA, along with a slew of new offerings – including exclusive 5G devices and an IoT extender – at MWC
In what the telco is heralding as an ‘industry first’, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Ericsson will trial 5G edge computing technologies for the financial services sector, testing end-to-end banking solutions over 5G over the coming months.
The trials are expected to showcase what the ‘bank branch of the future’ might look like and how 5G edge compute can help reduce network infrastructure currently required at individual branches.
Nikos Katinakis, Telstra group executive networks and IT, says 5G edge computing is all about bringing the network closer to the user or application.
“For financial institutions like Commonwealth Bank, it will help to enhance existing banking applications as well as deliver new use cases such as artificial intelligence, all supported by a range of software defined networking solutions.”
Pete Steel, Commonwealth Bank executive general manager of digital and retail operations and technology, says 5G and edge computing have significant potential to enhance the availability, stability and performance of CBA’s network infrastructure.
“We hope they can help us provide quicker and better digital experiences for our customers,” Steel says.
Katinakis says learnings from the trials will be applied across other industries.
Samsung, Oppo and LG 5G exclusives for Telstra
Meanwhile, as the 5G race heats up, Telstra also revealed that it will be providing 5G smartphones from Oppo, Samsung and LG first, or exclusively, in Australia.
First tipped at CES earlier this year, the telco this week confirmed that its 5G lineup will include the LG V50 ThinQ – exclusive to Telstra – Oppo’s first 5G offering and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, which will be available on Telstra first.
“There are two key components to bringing 5G to life – you need the network technology and you need compatible devices,” says Telstra CEO Andrew Penn. “Our network has been ready for some time, and we’re now even closer to having 5G-compatible devices available for our customers.
The phones are all due for release in the first half of 2019.
“Telstra is 5G-ready now,” Penn says. “When we began rolling out 5G technology across Australia back in August, we also started working closely with the major mobile brands and leading manufacturers of 5G handsets. This was so Telstra customers would not only be the first to access to 5G smartphones but also have a variety of products to choose from”.
And a 100km IoT range extender…
Also announced at MWC was a partnership between Telstra and Ericsson to integrate Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator connectivity management services into Telstra’s IoT offering.
The deal means from March 30, Telstra’s enterprise customers will be able to manage, access and track IoT devices and networked assets at a local, national or global level via access to Telstra’s cellular network, including the telco’s Narrowband-IoT and CAT-M1 technology.
This builds on Ericsson and Telstra’s successful deployment in September 2018 of NB-IoT Extended Range, that increased Telstra’s NB-IoT coverage to over 3.5 million square kilometres and which allows data connections up to 100km – 60kms more than 3GPP standards-based limits.
Emilio Romeo, Ericsson Australia and New Zealand head says the partnership means enterprises can integrate their business processes with the managed connectivity services offered by the two companies to create ‘highly reliable IoT solutions which will help to drive digital transformation of industries in Australia and internationally.
“We are enabling enterprises to launch IoT services on a global scale and helping the industry to capitalise on the tremendous potential that IoT brings,” Romeo says.
NEC has flagged the global provision of its 5G Vertical Business Platform enabling CSPs to provide networks, clouds and applications for the arrival of the 5G era.
NEC said the 5G platform had been designed to provide full stack capabilities and deliver innovative vertical business services. “While 5G is becoming a communication infrastructure supporting various industries and the public, CSPs face very difficult challenges as to how to cope with various needs, complicated traffic, massive amounts of traffic, security threats, and others,” the firm said, adding that its capability minimizes integration efforts – cutting time-to-market by underpinning a broad swathe of vertical business operations on a single platform.
NEC said the hardware and software, based on a key partner ecosystem, enabled continuous, secure and fast 5G service innovation.
“5G is expected to be more than just a high-speed, large-capacity mobile network. It should play the role of a platform that brings significant innovation to society as a whole and various industries and creates new services and value,” said Kazuhiko Harasaki, deputy general manager, Service Provider Solutions Division, NEC Corporation.
“However, for service providers in the position of providing and operating the platform, there are many challenges to be solved when entering the 5G era,” he added. “NEC can provide the network, Cloud / NFVI, virtual application, automation and orchestration of all layers with the optimum security solution. This is in addition to the company’s rich experience of service integration with ecosystem partners.”
“The… capability will enable CSPs to continuously add new applications and services for industry verticals to create new business and monetization opportunities for network operators and enterprises,” said Harasaki.
The NEC 5G Vertical Business Platform will be presented at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, February 25-28 at the NEC stand, Hall 3, 3M30
Immersive virtual reality (VR), self-driving cars and remote controlled robots are just some of the things telecommunications service providers expect future 5G mobile networks to make possible, according to GlobalData.
However, the analyst firm added that most large service providers agree that higher bandwidth 5G networks will, by themselves, be insufficient to support these emerging applications.
It said recent initiatives by large service providers, including Verizon, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom, illustrate the importance that is being attributed to edge computing as an essential component for unlocking the benefits of 5G.
“Edge computing involves the deployment of computer power, data storage and management closer to the end users of digital content and applications,” said GlobalData principal analyst Chris Drake. “This allows the associated data to be processed, analyzed and acted on locally, instead of being transmitted over long distance networks to be processed at central data centers.”
“The benefits of handling data and running applications locally include cost-savings, based on a massive reduction in the amount of bandwidth that’s required to transport data across long distance networks for processing. Benefits also include the higher performance that’s achieved by running applications closer to end users.”
“At the end of January 2019, Verizon announced that it had successfully tested edge computing technology on a live 5G network at its testbed in Houston, Texas. According to Verizon, the use of edge computing within its Houston 5G network resulted in a 50% fall in latency, or the lag-time, associated with sending that data for processing by computer servers.
“Nevertheless, plenty of challenges lie ahead for 5G and edge computing, including the need to develop viable business models around the new technologies, and a host of security concerns created by emerging 5G and edge computing use cases, whose distributed architectures will include many more locations at which security breaches can occur. These and other concerns mean that, for many, new 5G applications may be slow to materialize,” said Drake.