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CTOs call for improved industry cooperation over 5G

ICC CTO forum

A CTO Executive Forum at the 2015 International Conference on Communications (ICC) urged the whole telco industry to get better at working together to ensure the 5G standard effectively tackles the many technical challenges it will face.

The expert panel consisted of: Three UK CTO Bryn Jones; EE CTO Fotis Karonis; Telefónica UK CTO Brendan O’Reilly; Huawei wireless CTO Wen Tong; and Qualcomm wireless standards EVP Ed Tiedemann.

The first question was directed primarily at the operators, concerning their business challenges. Karonis focused on the capacity challenge as people take advantage of the increasing bandwidth being offered to them to do data intensive things like streaming video, etc. O’Reilly insisted ubiquitous coverage is key, citing the way in which the UK industry cooperated in order to ensure coverage at the 2012 London Olympics was up to the job. Jones asked about how best to achieve this with finite spectrum.

Collaboration was the recurring theme when the panel discussed how best to address these challenges as the industry looks to define 5G technologies, with Karonis insisting the solutions need to be embedded into the architecture of vendor ecosystems. Jones suggested better interference management is key to improving spectral efficiency and Tiedemann noted that Qualcomm has been introducing a lot of that kind of technology, but warned that is comes at an energy consumption cost. Tong agreed that we need to “get back to basics” and prioritise spectral efficiency. Other key areas suggested included virtualization and small cells, with SON (self-optimizing networks) tech taking on increasing importance.

The operators lamented the difficult position they’re in where their customers constantly ask for more but are reluctant to pay extra for that. “People are using more but are not willing to pay more,” said Jones and O’Reilly added: “We are treated by our customers as a utility; the whole industry needs to have a common objective for 2020.”

There seemed to be some underlying frustration on the part of the operators, who as ever lamented the cost of infrastructure and their dwindling margins, that vendors either don’t fully understand their challenges or just need to do better at helping out with them. With things like virtualization and hetnets likely to be cornerstones of 5G, it will only work if the whole industry works together.

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