There has been a flurry of 5G activity over the past few years, leading to the emergence of new business models and industry ecosystems. But what are the opportunities in scaling 5G to B?
This was the question posed by moderator Hidetaka Shiraishi at the MBBF 2022. Smart cities specialist Dr.Passakon Prathombutr said that smart cities are a type of 5G ecosystem, requiring a lot of technologies such as IoT, and noted that there was potential for synergy with many sectors such as energy and transport. The demand needs to be there however, and this can be fostered with tech incentives for companies that implement smart city solutions.
Alan Loh of Zain KSA fielded the question from an operator perspective, quipping that while customers use operator services more and more each year, they pay less. To address this, there are two things to be done: cost optimisation, which can be made more efficient with AI and ML, but also determining growth potential to capture. If operators want to grow, they need to change their mindset from being a connectivity business to a service experience business. A ‘dumb pipe’ is not enough; operators must provide solutions that meet enterprise needs across sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing. Loh called for engineers and marketers at operators to think entrepreneurially, ahead of where the technology currently is, so that they can address problems specific to industries by improving productivity.
Neo Liu of automation firm Siasun remarked that China has reached a new model of Industry 4.0, but there is still concern about how to create market demand for ‘to B’, especially in manufacturing industries. He noted that there is strong development across eCommerce and high end manufacturing such as automotive, EV, solar panels and semiconductors – all of which are powered by automation and sophisticated IoT technologies. However, he added that 5G technologies have only been applied in recent years, but we are starting to see pioneers implementing the tech in use cases such as smart factories. Liu said that 5G was an appropriate technology to link some the factory’s traditional infrastructure with newly implemented automation devices, such as automated guided vehicles.
Directing his attention to Huawei’s Eric Xiao, Shiraishi asked about the main challenges in terms of 5GtoB implementation and adoption. Xiao noted that Huawei began exploration of 5GtoB in 2019, and has learned a lot after implementing thousands of projects. He acknowledged that there are ecological challenges as well as cross-industry understanding challenges, but suggested it was best not to attempt to overcome all of these at once. Instead, he advocated starting from easy 5G use cases rather than complicated ones: the devices are ready and the business models are simple as the integration isn’t complex. It’s also a good idea to focus on outdoor scenarios first, fully leveraging the advantages of operators' 5G network such as the wide coverage, big capacity, lower cost and fast TTM. Xiao stated his belief that 5G is the best option from a performance perspective, and that it can even win out from a cost perspective depending on the project. Xiao underlined Huawei’s commitment to addressing the challenges of 5GtoB with its customers going into the future.