Julien, you recently co-authored a report on 5G, published by the French think-tank “Institut Montaigne”. Please tell us: why does it matter? Why should we all become interested in a telecom network technology?
After 3G and 4G comes 5G, so it’s tempting to look at it as only an incremental change. But it is not. It is a leap forward in network technology, and indeed it will be transformational. It will change our lives; it will reshape most industries. This is due to the features of this technology: not only high speed, but also very low latency, plus some other specifics that allow precise network resources management. Therefore, it will enable applications that were still speculative not so long ago, such as autonomous vehicles, remote healthcare, or smart homes where connected devices anticipate your needs. And it’s coming fast: in Europe, the licensing process will start by the end of this year, and coverage will be implemented between 2020 and 2025.
This sounds exciting! So what are the implications for decision-makers?
For companies, 5G is a huge opportunity to evolve business models. Manufacturers, as an example, will rely on more flexible, efficient and reactive production tools. A car company might therefore be able to assemble personalised car models in real time. Beyond manufacturing, a lot of value will be created in the services industry. 5G will enable to seamlessly integrate “layers” of customer experience: identification, recommendation, personalised content, social networking, shopping on- and offline, transaction, etc. Hence, companies will need to answer two key questions: “how can we provide our customers with a distinctive integrated experience?” and “which ‘layer’ of this experience should we make/buy?” – on the understanding that buying can also mean partnering.
For administrations and society at large, the main potential of 5G lies in territorial reorganisation. Education and healthcare services could be provided remotely, even in geographically removed regions. Also, high added value services, and the skilled people producing them, could be relocated away from crowded and costly urban areas. However, there are also new risks to manage, related to network security and national sovereignty.
The report ends with a call for action. Can you tell us more?
Definitely. From a European perspective, we recognise the US and China could take a decisive lead in this technology, thanks to their cloud solutions leaders and their telecom equipment providers respectively. This might further widen the gap in artificial intelligence or cloud computing. Thus, we encourage European countries do develop a dynamic ecosystem in order to compete on an equal footing. We advocate for concerted European policies on R&D, deployment, concentration, security, etc. This is a tremendous opportunity for Europe to act in favour of competitiveness and the well being of its citizens.