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5G monetisation: Learning from the experience of other markets

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The 5G revolution may have started to arrive on Europe’s shores in terms of licences, network infrastructure, devices and services – but I can’t be alone in feeling a sense of déjà vu when reflecting on the current state of the rollout.

For me, it feels reminiscent of 10 years ago when 4G was introduced. I recall a meeting in the US at the time, in which I asked a senior telco executive if they had a business case for their very expensively purchased 4G licence. The answer was a resounding and slightly anxious ‘no’.

Of course, everything turned out well for 4G but we’re only in the first chapter of the 5G story and for many operators the ending is far from certain. While 5G will of course be much more than just another G, especially when the potential of standalone (SA) 5G and network slicing starts to be exploited, the challenges facing telcos now are in many ways strikingly similar to those they were grappling with a decade ago.

From use case to monetisation

The conversation around the benefits of 5G has thus far largely been framed in the context of faster speeds and an evolution from 4G. A pipeline of 5G-ready smartphones helps and the marketing machines are being powered up to talk about 5G services. Some CSPs have gone further and sketched out novel use cases like remotely shaving a Hollywood star’s chin on a mountain summit using a robotic arm and a 5G connection.

That’s great marketing but the reality is that, too often, the holy grail of identifying and creating novel, game-changing applications that would have been impossible in the pre-5G era remains frustratingly out of reach – particularly in the consumer space. That’s the case not only in Europe but elsewhere too. The result is that the road to 5G monetisation is littered with barriers and obstacles.

Why ‘wait and see’ might be the smart move

Having invested heavily in 5G networks, behind closed doors many operators are delaying deployment. This could prove to be a sensible strategy. There is a strong argument to bide your time and learn from those markets like South Asia and North America – not forgetting closer-to-home markets like the Nordics – where 5G deployment is more advanced. There is an opportunity to scout out the use cases that are emerging and assess how applicable they would be in different territories across Europe.

In the meantime, new tariffs that involve charging customers a higher price for faster speeds, while 4G and 5G services run in tandem, can be implemented – particularly when tied to specific urban markets.

Core strength

Sadly, the arrival of 5G doesn’t mean that the complexities of integrating the network and IT will disappear. Making the core network easier to run and integrate will be key for any telco planning to capitalise on the opportunities for collaboration outside the sector that 5G presents. For example, when a driverless car maker weaves 5G connectivity into their offering, the forward-thinking telco will be looking to ensure that it is easy and profitable to do business with.

This adds to the argument in favour of automating more and more core processes to drive profitability, improve customer experience and be ready for the wave of innovation that 5G will unleash – especially in the enterprise sphere.

Failing fast to learn fast

5G will transform our industry within the next couple of years or so. In the meantime there is a window of opportunity to get ready to exploit 5G when it goes mainstream by evaluating options and learning from mistakes and successes in markets like South Korea, the US and the Nordics countries. All of which should ensure that, when we look back on the 5G story in a decade’s time, it brings a smile to the face of telco executives across the continent.

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