In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

It might not be intuitive why fifth generation networks are a concern in regions of the world where it is 3G and 4G that represent the near-term horizon for mobile networks and revenues.

For policymakers and service providers, 5G matters because it will likely incorporate changes in the way core networks work, the attributes and features of such networks, and make “access” a less important driver of value and features.

One obvious example is the design goal of making 5G an “ecosystem.” That applies both to revenues and services as well as value chains. The intent is that 5G will separate “access” from devices, apps and services.

For those of you who have lived through changes based on the separation of access from applications, you know what will happen: access will become more a “commodity,” since value is embodied in the apps, devices and features of the core network.

That is why 5G matters: it points to a change in the features and value of core networks, as opposed to access networks.

It perhaps already is clear that fifth generation mobile networks (5G) will be quite different from fourth generation networks, in fact quite different from all prior mobile network generations.

All earlier generations were built on distinct radio interfaces. But 5G, though it might incorporate new radio interfaces, will not be distinctively characterized by new interfaces.

New spectrum will be used, as has been the case for prior generations. But even use of new spectrum will not be the distinctive 5G feature.

At least as presently envisioned, 5G will be an ecosystem, not primarily a matter of radio interfaces, spectrum assignments or offered bandwidth and latency.

In fact, 5G will “be more than a new wireless access technology”  according to Susan Miller, ATIS CEO and president.

“5G is an ecosystem, not an air interface,” said Brian Daly, AT&T core network and government regulatory standards. In fact, 5G is more an integration effort than earlier generations, he said.

Joking that 5G is “one more G than four, ” 5G is different. It is not based mainly on new technology, but will mostly allow all technologies to work together, better, according to Scott Migaldi, Sprint senior research scientist.

“5G will not be a single standard that supports everything,” said Jim Ragsdale, Ericsson executive and ATIS WTSC RAN chairman. That’s true.”

That’s different. And much more challenging.

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