The next generation of mobile networks will be quite different from the four that preceded it. For starters, 5G is the first mobile platform deliberately being built to support applications serving machines and sensors, not devices used directly by people.

It also is clear that 5G is the first mobile platform that requires a simultaneous evolution of the core network, to support virtualization. In terms of spectrum, 5G will be the first to benefit from extensive use of millimeter wave frequencies heretofore unusable for commercial mobile communications on a mass retail level.

Also, 5G will be the first mobile platform that actually can compete head to head with fixed networks in terms of delivered bandwidth.

“What applications will be the spark that starts the fire? In 4G, it was a better mobile broadband experience. In 5G, that is not clear,” said Hossein Moiin, Nokia CTO.

And though the general principle that “access is separated from applications” has been established for some time, “for the first time in many cases, the mobile operator is not at the centre of the ecosystem.”

In terms of business model, that is the most-significant single change.