Wireless Global Congress Power Panel

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Wi-Fi and 5G: A problem shared is a problem halved

In this lively, entertaining and highly informative Power Panel, sponsored by GlobalReach Technology, recorded in the theatre in the iconic BT Tower in central London, five eminently well-qualified industry luminaries debate "The future of Wi-Fi in the 5G Era for connected cities, enterprises and carriers".
The panel members, whilst having different priorities as far as network transformation is concerned, are broadly in agreement about the important role that Wi-Fi will play in the play in the future, standalone and with 5G, not least because the two technologies are complementary and will necessarily co-exist for many years to come. It is expected at Wi-Fi technology will continue its natural progression (as evidenced by the introduction of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard), evolving and developing to the point that in due course Wi-Fi will look and feel like any other radio access network and become an integral part of the overall 5G ecosystem.
However, although in consensus about the ways in which the two technologies will become inextricably intertwined, the panel members have differing views on the business case for 5G. Throughout the various earlier generations of mobile cellular technology - 2G, 3G and 4G - the business case was based on a tripartite requirement that each new iteration would improve the customer experience, improve operator cost structure and drive new revenue streams. Some panel members argue that whilst two out of these three requirements can be said to have been met where 5G is concerned, the industry must demonstrate that the technology has the undoubted and proven inbuilt capability to meet any and all demands (known and unknown) that may be placed on it for without that capability there is no viable use case and therefore no business case.
Meanwhile other panelists believe that whilst the jury is til out on the business case for 5G it's pretty much a matter of "if you build it they will come". That's because 5G is a multiple of different platforms each of which will find its own business case as 5G is rolled out and consumers begin to use it. In other words, the 5G business case is not yet fully formed because the industry will rely on technologies that have not yet been deployed to prove the use cases that will emerge. However, all panelists agree that 5G and Wi-Fi have the potential to bring about massive transformational change and will do so.
As far as Wi-Fi integration is concerned, from the operator's perspective convergence is about more than just converging technologies. It is also about other aspects including virtualisation of the core network and the use of standardised compute platforms with software instances built into them. If 5G is to meet its full potential, it must have the ability and capability to move software around the network to where it is needed at any time. Also required is the ability to build services on top - i.e network slicing wherein a network might comprise of three strata, the fixed slice, the mobile slice and the converged slice.
The panelists agree that from the end-used perspective 5G must be immersive and that consumers must enjoy the same consistent and involving experience that, to them, looks completely access agnostic. That applies across all the technologies that combine to make up 5G.
As far as a timetable for the introduction of 5G is concerned some panelists are more bullish than others. Certainly 5G will be see widespread commercial deployment within the next three years but it is possible, even likely, that services will begin to be rolled out in September 2019 provided work on various standards can be concluded over the next few months.
The panel members agree that the emergence of connected cities will be vital for the future of humankind but there will have to be greater collaboration between the public and private sectors if the Smart City vision is to be realised. There is also a need for a much clearer definition of the operating models that will characterise connected cities and a frank analysis and assessment of the commercial opportunities and challenges that those engaged in Smart City applications, services and management will face. Furthermore, much work remains to be done on security and data privacy and to determine the parameters of the regimes that will apply to who, when, where and how data is collected, stored and curated and to whom and how sets of that data will be made available to suitable interested parties.
Finally the panel unanimously agrees that the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and other honest-broker industry bodies are essential to ensure the interoperability of wireless technologies between network operators and service providers and to promote the evolution of a frictionless wireless service experience for citizens, businesses, cities and things.
Host: Nick Hale, Managing Director Ventures at BT
Moderator: Martyn Warwick, Editor in Chief, TelecomTV
  • JR Wilson, Vice President Tower Strategy & Roaming, AT&T & Chairman, WBA 
  • Derek Peterson, CTO Boingo Wireless, Co-Chairman, WBA 
  • Chris Bruce, Managing Director, GlobalReach Technology
  • Julie Snell, CEO, Bristol is Open
  • Paul Crane, Director of Converged Network Research, BT 
Filmed at Wireless Global Congress, BT Tower, London 2018
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