The original version of this article first appeared in ITU Telecom World.
Looking back a few decades and focusing on the previous generations of mobile systems, we can identify one common denominator which has led to success – global standardization.
Without open global standards, it would not have been possible to get the global reach and the economy of scale that have made it possible for a large part of the global population to access data and services wherever they happen to be. Having a global standard is not enough. To be successful and enable growth, you must also have other factors in place, such as high performing networks, coverage, affordable terminals and attractive services and applications.
Looking forward, we see the dawn of a new generation – 5G. Like the previous generations of existing services and applications, it will improve and enhance the user experience. But the telecom industry will also face the challenge of new industries using 5G networks in their ongoing digitalization process.
To set the standard for the next coming 10-20 years, it is important to define the requirements that will be needed.
We cannot today foresee all the requirements that will be needed, but one thing is certain; requirements for different industries will be different, and that demands FLEXIBLITY. Interfaces should be specified to enable future services to be introduced, services which will fulfill future demands and desires.
Standardization is one process that will make this possible, but other areas also need to evolve at a similar pace.
Technology, applications, standardization, regulation and the evolution from 4G to 5G need to play in harmony.
New industries utilizing a common network will place high demands on regulatory issues that support innovation, but must also ensure that security and privacy are handled in the right way.
A challenge that we have in the standardization community is that specifications are not only developed in one standardization body. Future networks or 5G systems will include several organizations as well as different ways of working. Both specifications and open source software will be the base when developing 5G. Well-specified interfaces will be a highly important tool to enable a successful evolution.
When will it happen? Even though many organizations are involved in this, it is the ITU and 3GPP track that is the main vehicle and sets the pace. Current 3GPP work will be input to the specifications that are submitted to ITU, and we will have a commercial 5G system up and running within the timeframe of 2019-2020.
To operate and make equipment available on a global base, it is also critical to identify and make available global spectrum within this timeframe. Very good progress has been made in this area. Spectrum has been identified which indicates that it is possible to have spectrum for 5G available in the different regions in the given timeframe.
Once again: we cannot today foresee all requirements that are needed to fulfill future desires and demands. However, if we use global alignment, flexibility and high performance as guiding principles, we will be as prepared as we can for the future!
I look forward to discussing all this and more in the debate on The 5G opportunity: driving digital transformation at ITU Telecom World 2017 in Busan, South Korea, late this month.