Jun 13th 2018

5G World 2018: News, speculation and (some) answers

Connected 5G world

5G to enable remote robotic surgery! UK telcos spend big in 5G spectrum auction! Europe lagging behind in 5G! Pre-2020 to deliver ‘5G lite’ only! China leading 5G charge!

If there’s one common thread uniting coverage and opinion on the next-generation connectivity standard, it is a sentiment of uncertainty. Commercial deployment – the who, what, where and when – is predicted and retracted, with China, Korea and the US all ‘leading the race’ at varying stages and to varying degrees.

Babel represents clients from across the telecoms and associated technology sectors, meaning we’ve been following – and sharing – news and updates on 5G for some time. So when 5G World arrived in London on Tuesday as part of the city’s Tech Week, the team were intrigued to learn what stakeholders were saying, predicting, claiming and – hopefully – delivering.

The show didn’t officially open its doors until midday on Tuesday, but keen to stay one step ahead of the game, we arrived bright and early for the GSA Workshop which preceded Day One’s timetabled activity. The Global mobile Suppliers Association celebrated 20 years of industry involvement and support with a series of presentations from the likes of Ericsson, Huawei, Intel and Viavi Solutions.

Caroline Chan, VP and GM of Intel’s 5G Infrastructure Division, focussed on mobile edge computing (MEC), whereby cloud and processing capabilities are moved to the edge of the network, therefore closer to the end-user. Chan named China as the birthplace of MEC – and the place, from a tech standpoint “where everything seems to start” – and developments in this area, as well as in 5G, rapidly moving from hype to deployment.

Recent sporting events in Asia have stoked 5G/MEC R&D efforts, with each spectacle moving the region one step closer to deployment. Chan highlighted the Pyeongchang Winter Games – “the coldest two weeks of my life” – as a major milestone, and revealed work that Intel had done with e-commerce group Alibaba, involving facial recognition technology. As sinister as it may sound, the tech was used to predict consumer behaviour and the movement of crowds; something which will be of huge value to retailers, city planners and for traffic monitoring and control, said Chan.

Yet Asia may not be heading up the 5G game for much longer though. According to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, released on Day One of 5G World, North America will soon take the lead. All major operators in the US are expected to have deployed 5G before mid-2019, and by the end of 2023 almost half of all mobile subscriptions in the region will be for 5G.  North East Asia follows at 34% of subs, and Western Europe trails behind at around one-fifth.

And how about London? How will 5G World’s host city contribute to that 21%, and how/will the city leverage 5G to enable “the forth industrial revolution”?

East London’s Docklands could not be a more apt setting for the event, Ulrich Droppmann, VP of the GSA’s Executive Board (also Head of Standardisation at Nokia), commented. Now a riverfront development, the area was initially created to support the swell in international trade, and the industrial and agricultural change which swept south from manufacturing heartlands in northern England. This first revolution was followed by periods shaped by mass production and electricity, communications and the internet, and now, digital transformation: the “forth industrial revolution.”

The roadmap for what this might involve was presented by London Mayor Sadiq Khan at 5G World. His Smarter London Together plan encompasses a number of proposed initiatives, including data sharing amongst public services, a London-wide cyber-security strategy, and commissioning smart city infrastructure from vehicle charging points to pollution-monitoring lamp posts.

The 5G World event didn’t provide all of the answers to where, how, and when we’ll actually be part of a 5G world. However, it did provide a slate to sketch details of what this might look like. And of course, it was a platform for exhibitors and attendees to flash shiny, impressive, futuristic visions to media and stakeholders, while behind closed doors and in C-level discussions, figure out how and if they might bankroll this new world.


Holly Ashford
Holly Ashford SENIOR CONTENT MANAGER