European governments appear to be moving ahead with efforts to consolidate a successful future for 5G, identifying its risks and proposing alternatives to boost performance.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, for example, published in July, lays out the UK’s policy objectives on broadband and mobile investment with one eye firmly on the next generation of networks.
It acknowledges “there is a role for policy and spectrum management” in securing the positive benefits of 5G. With this in mind, it suggests that a number of actions should be prioritised:
- Making it easier and cheaper to deploy mobile infrastructure, including the implementation of the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), facilitating on-site access and consideration of further planning reforms
- Supporting infrastructure models that promote competition and investment in network densification and extension
- Stimulating demand and new use cases through the 5G testbeds and trials programme
- Securing a diverse set of innovative 5G services through spectrum policy
The high cost of future networks is still an obstacle to overcome. The report suggests that the price of deploying 200,000 small cells–an estimate of how many will be needed to provide outdoor coverage in most urban areas–would be around £3 billion (€3.34 billion), based on today’s costs.
That figure adds to concerns that mobile operators may no longer be profitable if they stick to current business models.
Until these issues are resolved, it seems that 5G and current business models present more challenges than opportunities. But the UK’s review has tackled the problem, suggesting a single national wholesale network (monopoly infrastructure provider which would offer a wholesale service to mobile network operators and other wireless operators) and a market expansion model (which relies on competition between multiple national networks but also enables new infrastructure and spectrum access models) as possible solutions.
The paper has also recognised that new market entrants are seeking different approaches to spectrum to support their investments, such as light licensing, dynamic spectrum access and licence-exempt spectrum.
While the shift may be modest, this proactive position may eventually put Europe, where some say 5G deployment is currently lagging, ahead of the US and some Asian countries, which are already talking of offering commercial 5G services.•