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Net neutrality and 5G may be on a collision course as the mobile industry seeks to develop the most-complicated mobile network platform ever envisioned. In the past, new mobile networks largely have differed in air interface, access protocols and frequencies.

The coming 5G networks, if anything close to what supporters claim will be the case, will be far more demanding, allowing devices to use any available access network, among other features, and supporting a wide range of mobile applications, some managed and some best effort.

And there lies the problem: regulator attempts to ban “fast lanes” and other special treatment might make that impossible.

Industrial sensors, self-driving cars and other emerging uses of the Internet have needs that can’t be met by a general-purpose network, Ericsson Group CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said.

That might, or might not, be an insurmountable obstacle. Network neutrality supporters won’t like the idea, but more innovation now is destined to occur around managed networks, especially as Internet of Things applications possibly become the key distinguishing feature of 5G networks.

However regulators may look at it, something will have to be done if 5G is going to serve all mobile needs, said Chaesub Lee, International Telecommunication Union director.

Today, all consumer Internet traffic is defined as either broadband or not, he said. “Our treatment of traffic is not smart enough to support all the business models,” Lee said.

There’s an obvious answer for that problem: create services that are not part of the consumer Internet, but more akin to cable TV video services, carrier voice or messaging.

Inevitably, it seems, more services and apps will take the form of managed services, and will not be part of the consumer Internet.

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