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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,” says Øfsthus.
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.
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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