A recent poll of industry executives suggests uncertainty about 5G business models, though a significant concern, is not the biggest concern. That issue is deployment cost, cited by 38 percent of respondents to a GSMA survey.
For many mobile operators, that concern is caused by the concern that a recent big wave investment in 4G might not have time to provide a payback before the follow-on investments in 5G are necessary.
The next most identified barrier to 5G deployments–selected by 22 percent of respondents–was lack of clarity surrounding 5G use cases. There’s a likely feeling among respondents that too much vagueness exists around what 5G networks will be used for, GSMA says.
Simply saying more speed and throughput will be available just isn’t enough. Mobile operators want to know what new services and revenues they can generate as a consequence of having 5G networks before they sign off on the investment.
A third issue was spectrum availability. Some 19 percent of respondents saw this as the greatest barrier to 5G deployment. That might be seen as a bigger issue in some markets where regulator willingness to release huge amounts of new millimeter spectrum is limited.
In some markets, raw spectrum is likely to be the least of obstacles, as an order of magnitude or two orders of magnitude worth of new spectrum is going to be released for use.
To be sure, respondents tend to believe there is too much vagueness around what 5G networks will be used for. That concern is not new. It was true of 3G and 4G as well. The implication should be that, in the era where internet accessed apps and services lead markets, it is not always possible for access providers to predict what people and entities will want to do, and what apps and revenue streams will emerge.