The Next Element, that’s the tag line being pushed for 2017’s Mobile World Congress and it’s pretty safe to say the ‘Next Element’ being referred to is 5G.
While it’s probably that the latest raft of handsets will likely steal most of the headlines, from what is essentially a consumer electronics show, it will be the announcements around 5G that will have the more lasting impact.
The show competes to be one of the biggest mobile focused events in the calendar and so it’s unsurprising that many of the largest names in the tech industry will show up to push their products, in addition to highlighting the work they are doing to make everything from devices to networks, and everything in-between, better.
MWC, which effectively kicked off today, has already seen a number of announcements pushed out regarding 5G.
The idea of 5G is far from new, when I attended MWC two years ago it was already being pushed as a reality, ‘it will be coming and look at the innovative products we have’, was the general mantra of many of the biggest names at the event.
The hype around the technology is so fevered because of the promise of it being vital to enabling the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
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The mobile workforce will benefit, businesses will benefit, and it will help to realise the potential of the Internet of Things.
The problem with 5G is that it requires new infrastructure and new technology, which is good for those building it, but time consuming and costly for everyone else, unless the path is a software focused one.
Verizon and Cisco for example have partnered to help drive 5G innovation around the network and provide services that will hopefully bring the best connectivity possible.
Cisco is to bring elements of its 5G-ready mobile architecture to Verizon’s pre-commercial pilots of the technology.
Included will be a virtualised, cloud-based, 5G Technology Forum compliant packet core as part of the Cisco Ultra Service platform. The tech is designed to increase service velocity by providing on-boarding and operational simplification for virtual network functions. Basically, it will help applications to be served up in real-time to customers.
Then you have Qualcomm and Ericsson, who, along with Vodafone, are trialling 5G New Radio for Unified 5G.
The trial is intended to move the industry towards validation of the 5G NR technologies, which are said to help operators test the 3GPP standard compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices.
The trials will be taking place in the UK, with plans to showcase how the technologies utilise wide bandwidths in order to increase network capacity.
Ulf Ewaldsson, SVP and chief strategy and technology officer, Ericsson, said: “5G will enable operators to provide new use cases in areas such as the Internet of Things, automation and big data, and the ability to build new revenue streams with radically new business models. To speed up commercialization of the global 3GPP 5G standard, we continuously work with leading operators and ecosystem players in 5G to enable global scale and drive the industry in one common direction.”
We’ve already seen a few announcements around 5G partnerships and there should be more expected to come out throughout the course of the conference.
Each company is trying to build itself a 5G ecosystem and there will likely be successful groups around each of the major network carriers. But for consumers there’s not really much to see when it comes to 5G.
Governments may talk about investing in 5G and large tech companies will continue to position themselves, hoping to out manoeuvre their rivals with the best partnerships and hopefully the best technology. The consumer meanwhile will see little to nothing.
Mobile World Congress is talking about the ‘Next Element’ but the already available elements aren’t being deployed particularly well.
Go to any rural part of the UK and you’ll struggle to get 3G reception, 4G appears fleetingly. The point being that it seems somewhat naïve to suggest that 5G is going to be great and enable us to do all these wonderful things, when we haven’t even got 4G right.
So for the moment the conversation around 5G will be dominated by partnerships, by trials and by talk of what it could bring to us all in the near future.
That’s not to say that those things don’t hold value, because they do. These are the battle lines being drawn, companies teaming up with others and going their own way with different technologies that will, in theory, become the core infrastructure that we all rely on in the next decade.