All 4 major UK networks are well underway with their 5G rollouts. Three and EE are ahead in terms of numbers of cities compared with Vodafone and O2, however the reality is that most major cities now have 5G which accounts for over 50% of the population. The expectation being set by the operators is that it will take a further 5 years to reach 90% of the population. Achieving this will involve turning off the 3G networks to re-use that spectrum to support 5G. The last 10% may well require technology or an approach that has not thus far been used in UK mobile networks such as using 5G satellite constellations to provide infill.
Opportunities for the channel
5G has opened many opportunities for the channel. The performance offered by 5G can be better than the performance offered by the fixed line broadband service available in many locations. The channel are bound to have customers with poor broadband performance and 5G could well be the answer, especially when combined with a high performance 5G router and external antenna.
5G provides high performance Internet access in locations where there is no fixed line connectivity at all. This means locations where solutions such as hosted voice, collaboration, IP CCTV could never have been supplied are now accessible for the first time.
5G requires new devices to take full advantage of the increased performance. A fact often overlooked is that all the UK networks support LTE-Advanced or 4G+ with a much larger footprint than their 5G networks and yet the vast majority of 4G routers on the market today don’t take advantage of the extra performance. In some cases a good quality LTE-Advanced or 5G router would provide up to 4 times the performance on 4G compared to using a device that doesn’t support LTE-Advanced. In many cases where you’re deploying 4G in a fixed location we would recommend installing a 5G router because it will provide much better 4G performance and will be ready for 5G when the coverage reaches that location.
Jola launched our Device as a Service offering to solve a problem that has been caused by 5G. Good quality, high performance 5G devices are expensive, potentially three or four times the price of the equivalent 4G device. Our channel told us that this was an obstacle to 5G adoption. So now we offer all our devices on an OpEX model so that then channel partner and the customer don’t have any hefty upfront costs that might put them off taking advantage of 5G.
The 5G rollout is leading to the 3G networks being switched off over the next 3 years. This is a huge opportunity because there are millions of devices that are 3G only and don’t support 4G. This means that when the 3G network is switched off suddenly payment terminals, tablets, kiosks, digital signage displays and many more devices will just stop working!
This means that you have the opportunity to generate revenue from the hardware swap-out but also this is a great time to speak to your customers about swapping out your customers mobile data SIMs. Many organisation did deals years ago with MNOs (particularly the M2M / IoT divisions of the MNOs) that the channel could replace via an aggregator like Jola, saving your customers significant money and making a healthy margin at the same time.
5G in the future
Today 5G is being delivered using the same frequencies as 4G and typically delivers average speeds of around 150Mb/s and over 500Mb/s in perfect conditions. However, to unlock the true potential of 5G and deliver multi gigabit ultra-low latency performance then the operators need to start using the spectrum in the millimetre-wave (26Ghz – 40Ghz) bands and this will require regulatory change and significantly higher investment. When this happens I think 5G can really deliver on the promise of any application anywhere and it’s not inconceivable that fixed line access is no-longer essential for many businesses and use-cases.