Interview: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Badran

What are the challenges of 5G networks, and what services are likely to shape future 5G offerings?

SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL BADRAN: 5G networks and services form an important ecosystem of innovation in technology and business. The range of future 5G offerings will be shaped by various drivers, from the business and market side as well as from the technology itself. 

First, 5G would reduce energy consumption significantly, allowing the development of devices with a battery life up to 10 years. Second, with a peak data rate of 10 GB per second, the usability would be greatly increased making it possible for consumers to utilise huge quantities of data. 5G is also related to advances in data density, meaning that 10 TB per second per sq km could be possible. As a frame of reference, the entire contents of Wikipedia could be downloaded by 1000 users at the same time within 6.7 minutes.

As the number of services requiring network connection increases, the reliability and coverage of these networks will be equally as important as speed and capacity. In order to make 5G available, a great amount of new spectrum is required; however, the exact frequency areas have yet to be defined.

The transfer of data over a finite resource, like a specific spectrum, is a significant challenge that will have to be overcome, thereby making the highest demands of spectral efficiency. 5G will encourage significant additional developments, and thus a positive climate for investments in new technologies has to be created. Operators will have to invest in network infrastructure, such as fibre rollout, and the deployment of small cells to ensure the benefits of 5G can be achieved.

How would you characterise the next-generation customer and their consumer demands?

AL BADRAN: The next-generation customer will be connected with everything around him or her, forming dynamic ecosystems, leading to a rapid growth in traffic and equipment. Requirements will include constant, on demand and guaranteed bandwidth for streaming or surveillance applications; traffic prioritisation so that mission-critical environments are sufficiently supported and related evidence is generated; security; and the quick and easy deployment of services. The main point will be to democratise next-generation applications to make them available to every consumer. Today most of the services requiring quality of service (QoS) are delivered via specialised dedicated networks for the enterprise segment. We expect networks will enable services beyond best-effort delivery. This will unleash economic value in new areas, such as telepresence, enhanced discovery and automated living.

In which areas can telecoms operators build new revenue streams outside of their core business?

AL BADRAN: Numerous use cases will emerge through the high number of 5G devices combined with the revolutionary features of an enhanced network, forming multiple possibilities for new revenue streams. Every industry will be impacted, which represents an opportunity for telecoms firms in several areas, including automotive, transport and logistics services; energy services; health services, such as cloud robotics for assisted living and smart medication; and media and entertainment services, where we have already begun to see a global interest. Future networks will also carry some vulnerability; as with all connected technologies the security and reliability of the network is increasingly important. Security is more than an avoidance of being hacked. We believe that the best-effort paradigm for net neutrality has to be adjusted within the internet of things environment. Hence, emergency calls or autonomous driving use cases will have a higher degree of QoS than a smart watch or a copy machine. Prioritisation and the ability to adapt and integrate new technologies into established regulatory frameworks is an important challenge, and we are working with global regulatory bodies to discuss both security and QoS matters.