Success of 5G deployment depends on government

Governments must put the right strategies in place to ensure efficiency in 5G deployment
3 August 2018

Governments play a key role in the successful deployment of 5G. Source: Shutterstock

A reliable network infrastructure for 5G is crucial for businesses adopting technologies that will power industry 4.0.

5G promises faster network speeds and lower latency, which is crucial for realizing the true potential of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and big data.

According to IHS Markit, 5G will be driving US$12.3 trillion of global economic output by 2030. That’s more than the amount spent by consumers in China, Japan, Germany, the UK, and France collectively in 2016.

To ensure businesses can reap the benefits of 5G, governments play a key role in the transition process. King’s College London recently published a paper, highlighting four vital strategies needed for a smooth deployment.

Usage of public street furniture

Unlike the move from 3G to 4G, transitioning to 5G requires a very different network infrastructure.

5G specifications demand a large number of base-stations, line-of-sight connections, and large-scale area coverage.

Tapping into existing resources, street furniture such as street lamps, and bus stops are highly suited as sites for network equipment.

However, there is currently no clear policy framework for this, and negotiating a deployment can take months. Thus, it is important that governments create a holistic policy framework that is regulated by a single organization.

The policy must address any issues that may be present whether in relation to local authorities, or street furniture owners.

Prioritising use of digital infrastructure

Most countries have an extensive network of digital infrastructure, including the connectivity provided by local telcos, internet service providers, public institutions etc.

In the UK for example, Network Rail handles 16,000km of fiber across the country. This existing network is optimal for deploying 5G at scale.

However, the different ownership of these infrastructure makes it difficult. The government should encourage fiber sharing amongst public and private institutions, to ensure that all businesses can share the benefits of 5G.

The government should also look at fiber deployment alongside any construction projects, to ensure networks are built in an efficient way.

Encouraging innovation in spectrum regulation

Unlike 4G deployments, where the spectrum is already available, 5G requires a new band of spectrum to be opened up.

Traditionally, the license for using these spectrum bands are auctioned to the largest operator. However, that limits innovation, as operators don’t often prioritize any opportunities for exploration, due to uncertain returns on investment.

The paper suggests that governments roll out alternative spectrum licensing models, including phased release or sub-leasing. This can help foster innovation, as more organizations can have access to spectrum, thus providing more opportunities for experiments.

Education and skills

5G is a relatively new technology, which is in the midst of continued research and development. This also means there are less available talents with the necessary skills in 5G deployment.

With an increasing demand for skills relating to 5G, it’s important that universities focus on offering curriculums that help develop talents that are needed for the technology.

Additionally, governments should look at building a national platform that brings together industry, government, and academia, to bridge the gaps and accelerate innovations and development of 5G technology.

As the technology matures and is ready for commercial rollout, it is important for the government to take a more flexible approach towards network deployment. It needs to act as a catalyst that enables organizations to work together.

Ultimately, 5G will help companies drive efficiency in business operations, which in turn can boost the economy.