We live in the era of 5G, where mobile
networks have a rapidly growing role in society, business and daily
life. Critical services and private networks, that need a lot of
resilience, are shifting towards commercial networks. This means that
even small outages can have fatal consequences. How can we guarantee
the speed required by users with minimal delay?
Telenor Group is the leading telecommunications
company in the Nordic countries and Asia, serving 180 million
customers globally. Telenor Norway's Chief Technology
Officer (CTO) Ingeborg Øfsthus has been monitoring
the development of mobile networks in the company for 20 years, in
four different market areas.
Telenor is a pioneer in 5G technology. In 2018, it launched
Scandinavia’s first 5G pilot project in Norway.
“Piloting has brought us vital knowledge and experience. Within these
projects, we have been able to test both the maturity of the
technology, and its functionality within different applications. We
organised the first test in 2018 in Kongsberg with
about 25,000 people. The following year, we moved towards pilot
projects in larger cities and across several different applications,”
Telenor has tested 5G networks in factories, shipping containers,
agriculture and in remote rural areas as an alternative to a copper or
fibre grid. The company conducted various experiments in several areas
around Norway to map out consumer needs. According to Øfsthus, this
allowed the company to prepare for the launch of commercial 5G
networks in 2020.
Everyone wants a piece of 5G, but few are willing to invest
Øfsthus points out: “We are not merely building a 5G network, we are
producing a completely modernised mobile network that can handle six
or even ten times the amount of traffic compared to today. This in
itself takes massive efforts, not to mention that our customers expect
all this to happen without the tiniest disruption to their services.”
New technological features are shining a light to the value chain of
mobile networks. This has brought a number of new and rapidly growing
competitors into the market. Hardware vendors, IT companies, and even
traditional network vendors are all interested in new business
opportunities in emerging areas of the industry.
Thus, various parts of this complex value chain are now available in
as-a-service form. Today, physical infrastructure, connectivity,
analytics and even custom network solutions can be acquired as a service.
It follows that traditional mobile network service providers are now
often burdened with the strongly regulated and investment-heavy
aspects of network distribution and maintenance. These aspects are of
little or no interest to the new competitors in the market. Many
players are ready to fight for the hearts and wallets of the consumer,
but only a limited number are willing to invest in skeleton
infrastructure. The key question is, how to create sustainable growth
that also motivates investment?
“This question has no unequivocal or clear answer. It seems
inevitable that new, exciting, and even unlikely partnerships need to
be created so that stakeholders can share the investment as well as
the profit. The players who manage to forge those kinds of
relationships are the ones most likely to succeed in this industry in
the long term,” Øfsthus predicts.
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