You might think some particular element of the proposed fifth generation network is the “defining” characteristic.
Perhaps it is the ultra-low latency that makes 5G distinctive. For others, the access speeds will matter most.
Connectivity transparency or consistent experience might be seen as the “key” features. In other cases, it might be the new business models or applications that seem most unique.
For some, “network slicing,” the ability to optimize general purpose network features in different ways to support specific use cases and applications will seem key.
Also, the growing inability to clearly separate “access” from “transport;” “connectivity” from “apps” will be the uniquely-new character.
In most instances, the flexibility or customization of the new network will seem the most-striking new feature.
5G will bring multiple propositions to all customers and at the same time provides an enhanced and unique proposition tailored to each one of them. The definition of the customer is not limited to the consumers and the enterprises as in today’s environment but also expand to include verticals and other partnerships.
Any of those choices will make sense, if the 5G vision articulated by the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance is correct.
For decades, network architects have strived to create a network so flexible, and so powerful, that it can actually customize what used to be thought of as “vanilla” communications services for specific applications, users, devices and business models.
We used to call that “bandwidth on demand,” for example. But 5G will advance far beyond that, creating a network able to create and customize end user experiences when using network resources.
The clear hope is that such flexibility, customization and control will enable many huge new business models. In other words, the general purpose network can be customized for specific types of devices, users or apps.
Smartphones used by people for voice, Internet access and messaging might use one set of network features, “tuned” for people using smartphones in different settings, at different times or day or places.
Autonomous vehicles will require a different set of performance parameters, and the network should be able to supply just the needed performance, while not burdening what might be thought of as a complete virtual network with unnecessary features or capabilities.
Likewise, sensor networks should be optimized in ways that best support their intended functions, without unnecessary cost and overhead.
Where content delivery is the key business function, the network should be able to support linear or on-demand content efficiently.
Service features for airplane passengers will be distinct from service features for pedestrians in shopping malls or sports stadiums. High-density service requirements and low-density rural apps, with a mix of latency requirements, access speeds or mobility support should be supported.
Almost by definition, the 5G network should provide many more was for “access providers” or “transport providers” or “data center providers” to create additional value and distinctiveness.
There should be many new possibilities for combining computing and application assets with connectivity functions and application capabilities and features.
All of that will provide many new ways to “move up the value chain” and craft distinctive, non-commodity positions within the market.
The point is that 5G presupposes a next generation network that is programmable in an entirely-new way, built from the inception to support a wide range of potential newe business cases.
It is breath-taking stuff.