Although not necessarily as lucrative as some previous mobile generations, 4G has successfully put the smartphone into the center of everyday life in the industrialised world.
Watches, torches, taxis, cameras and even cash appear to have entered the dustbin of history during the 2010s.
But as we turn over to a new decade, our regular review of operators’ spectrum strategies turned up a perhaps counter-intuitive trend: 5G services that do not need smartphones.
Instead, operators appear to be investing more in connecting “things” like cars, aircraft, the energy grid, and industrial machinery. Why? Because it is thought that more money can be made by providing connectivity use cases that 4G could not support.
This trend, if it comes to fruition, could change how operators think about spectrum. Licences might have to allow for non-terrestrial use of spectrum, for example, or could provide some sort of flexibility in terms of geographic coverage.
Two decades ago some spectrum policy makers wondered to what extent licences would be needed at all: will the 2020s bring that vision to life?
We do not know, but our fully updated profiles of mobile operators – including Deutsche Telekom, AT&T, China Mobile, América Móvil and Vodafone – are available to Spectrum Research Service subscribers here.
By Toby Youell