After 25 years in the telecoms industry, I’ve come to understand that one of the biggest myths right now in society is that 5G is just something that’s going to make everything we do on our mobile phones faster. And that’s not wrong in itself. 5G is certainly about speed, but there’s a great deal more to the story, both for society and for telecoms
CEO of Telekom Srbija Group, a provider of fixed-line, mobile, television and internet communication services to over 11 million subscribers, Vladimir Lučić, wrote his very first article for Forbes. Diplomacy& Commerce magazine exclusively took over the entire article.
It’s hard to read anything about our future of the world these days without seeing 5G mentioned. 5G is “trending,” but do we truly understand what it is and how it will transform our future?
When I say “our future,” I mean our society as a whole and also our business as telecom operators. Consumers are all familiar with 3G, which suddenly made browsing on our cell phones truly possible, and 4G, which then catapulted us into the era of mobile video. So the general assumption is that 5G is just going to be one more incremental change. I don’t believe that’s the reality. 5G — actually 5G plus fiber — isn’t just another evolution but a revolution. It’s going to change the way people live and work. And, for telecom operators, if we’re smart now, 5G is going to transform our business model so that we become much more than just connectivity providers.
5G technology is going to fuel a raft of transformative new technologies, not just for consumers but also for business, governments, infrastructure and defense. Latency (the time it takes a device to request something from a server and get a response on the screen) will become a thing of the past. And communicating with cloud platforms will be vastly facilitated. It will create value far beyond just enhanced mobile broadband, enabling businesses to become part of the Internet of Things (IoT) world. Crucial technologies such as self-driving cars and healthcare systems will be built on top of the network. 5G is an essential element, and we need it for IoT and controlling autonomous machines, smart cities and other technologies.
“The 5G revolution will transform the future. As telecoms, let’s make sure the technology isn’t misunderstood”
Telecom companies everywhere have a crucial role to play to get the new 5G backbone in place. I’m often asked, how can we, as telecom companies, prepare for our role in the 5G (r)evolution?
My answer is one word: strategy. To introduce a product as superior as 5G to our customers, we have to develop and implement smart agendas that drive the commercial readiness of this new ecosystem.
Smart network investments can enable crucial steps forward in scaling up to achieve 5G network infrastructure. Since 5G signals will run over new radio frequencies, your cell tower equipment might need to be being updated. More fiber can also be laid across the country, adding the missing pieces of the 5G puzzle and enabling the implementation of 5G across countries.
What’s also crucial to understand is that other emerging technologies complement 5G and are going to be hugely important in transforming the notion of what a telecom company is and does. I would argue that combining 5G with smart use of these other emerging technologies has the potential to allow telecom operators to play a more important part in the industry value chain going forward. For example, mobile edge computing gives telecoms the ability to transfer data more efficiently and greater perimeter security, helping operators reduce network congestion and achieve low latency. Also, network function virtualization will give telecoms the ability to better manage network resources to bring about OPEX and CAPEX reductions.
You can also use AI, analytics and machine learning alongside 5G to offer new location and context-aware services across millions of end-points. This means telecom operators will be able to become much more than just a network or pipe provider with significant changes in network control, personalization and service quality. We will have the tools to have much more granular and intimate insight into our own networks and that will give telecoms the ability to provide their customers with new services, helping monetize the investments.
This means that telecoms are going to see their operating models change, and workforces are going to need to be redesigned. You are going to need more software engineers because network operations, data center staff and IT departments will all collaborate more closely to provide better visibility of applications, networks and services across businesses. Salespeople will have to engage with business customers differently because they will no longer be selling only connectivity; rather, they’ll have to understand the business outcomes that enterprise customers want to achieve with 5G-based IoT.
Next time you’re surfing on your mobile phone and a page is taking too long to load, take heart that 5G is just around the corner. It will load that webpage faster, for sure, but that’s not all that 5G is about. To paraphrase the words of the legendary rock band The Animals in their 1965 hit, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
The 5G revolution will transform the future. As telecoms, let’s make sure the technology isn’t misunderstood.
AT MY COMPANY, TELEKOM SRBIJA:
For example, at my company, we are acting on our intelligence-led roll-out plan, prioritizing key areas and stakeholders who will benefit the most from the speed, reliability and efficiency that 5G will bring. Our transformation began when we harnessed a new cloud solution that has enabled us to consolidate user data virtually. This has helped eliminate the complexity of managing subscriptions from different network silos. This has also allowed us to be more scalable and agile, an important step in the transformation toward 5G.