Why Partnerships are the Key to Early 5G Success
The value of 5G has been demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the outbreak, Huawei and telecom operators collaborated to implement a 5G-enabled contagion monitoring system, capable of contactless detection of temperature in real-time and sending alerts for appropriate intervention.
The benefit is huge – but 5G deployment is a massive and costly affair. The use cases are perhaps unlimited but the capital expenditure for 5G network deployment is significant and the returns may not be covered by consumer mobile spend.
This makes it imperative that the focus is on enterprise solutions – and as such, it will be essential for mobile network operators to enter into partnerships. They will have to co-create new services with partners and subscribers. Such partnerships will help reduce the total cost of ownership while ensuring faster time-to-market and accelerate innovation in the 5G sector. However, pessimists say that such partnerships indicate that the technology is still in search of practical applications and this certainly raises concerns for investors.
Beneficial or not, we are bound to see more of these partnerships going forward. Research from the Netcracker & TM Forum shows that 69% of telecom providers plan to go the partnership way, particularly for industrial use cases.
Networking and telecommunications firm Ericsson has already partnered on some use cases. For instance, it worked with the Port of Livorno in Italy and CNIT to digitalise port operations. They have been working on a connected port, where machines, humans and devices can share data in real time. This can facilitate automated remote control of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) for loading and unloading operations and connected operations of different departments at the seaport. Another experiment using the 5G network was ‘The Healing Hand’ project. The Ericsson 5G Tactile Internet Lab created specialised haptic feedback gloves and virtual reality (VR) equipment to facilitate doctors to perform diagnosis and surgery from anywhere.
Ericsson is not the only player on this journey of forging partnerships. Google Cloud and AT&T have partnered to build enterprise use cases, including augmented reality, virtual reality, video analytics and data-intensive sensors. They plan to develop 5G edge computing solutions which can be delivered on the edge and in the cloud.
In the US, AT&T and Verizon have been racing with one another to establish interesting 5G content and technology partnerships. Verizon has formed a new augmented reality partnership with Snap. The firm claims its 5G Ultra Wideband technology can transform the way mobile users experience places and events. Meanwhile, AT&T has not lagged. It has signed two 5G partnerships — one with the Purdue University’s College of Engineering and another with The Washington Post. The Purdue University partnership focuses on advanced manufacturing, smart cities and IoT and rural broadband and agricultural technology for disaster response. The partnership with the newspaper is focused on ‘immersive journalism.’
It is not just companies that have been contributing to these partnerships. An out-of-the-box approach to the concept of partnerships was presented by Eugene Grant, the mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland. He suggested that 5G market players can consider the small city as a testbed to deploy the technology. The city is just outside Washington, DC so Grant suggested that the deployed technology may also be practically demonstrated to members of the Congress.
Rolf Meakin of Strategy&, PwC’s strategy-consulting arm has agreed that we will see much more such collaborations in the near future. These partnerships will help pay for the rollout. Meakin has forecast that telecom operators will have to replace their traditional B2B and B2C revenue models with ‘B2B2X.’ The B2B2X model is where the partnerships will also include the consumer, business, machine, object, robot or the public sector as ‘X.’ For example, it could involve a managed service provider who will operate a production line using robots and sensors enabled by the 5G network. It can also involve data analytics provided by a telecom operator.
Another model is a marketplace of the providers of devices, subsystems and component services. This marketplace model will enable developers and service providers to reach customers at a low cost and shorter lead time. It will enable them to offer their services to third parties that aim to create 5G offerings for their business. The third parties and operators can use the marketplace to develop 5G services for business consumers, easily and with flexibility. They can select the required components and functionality to develop a particular service.
For example, if an operator wants to create a service for the oil and gas sector, the marketplace will facilitate the operator to find a suitable specialist and source preapproved sensor devices. Meanwhile, if a utility firm wants to purchase 5G connectivity for its devices, it can find one on the marketplace.
Be it the B2B2X or the marketplace approach, partnerships are expected to continue to multiply to deliver a seamless service experience to the end users. Discover how partnerships will bring out the true potential of 5G at the 5G Expo.
If you would like to learn more about 5G and how partnerships bring out true potential, why not attend one of the 5G Expos throughout 2020 – 21?
5G Expo World Series:
5G Expo North America 2020 | Silicon Valley (4-5 November)
5G Expo Europe 2020 | RAI, Amsterdam (24-25 November)
5G Expo Global 2021 | Olympia London (17-18th March 2021)