There seems to be a 5G digital divide appearing between Europe and Asia and it is not difficult to see who the winner will be.
In Europe, a recent report points to telecoms companies doing everything in their power to keep costs to a minimum, while launching 5G (more like 4G+). Investment in fibre, towers and in-building equipment is being clamped.
In Asia, where the attitude to new technology has always been ‘try it, keep it, bin it, try again’, the stories are much more appealing. SK Telecom is at forefront of showing how a new technology like 5G can take off, attract a million users in a month and lift revenues in a satisfactory manner.
The fact is that Asia is going digital, and fast, and Europe is just playing at it. The recent story from Openet about how Telkomsel went digital in 18 weeks demonstrates this divide.
It comes down to a difference in culture and an embedded difference in how you look at 5G. In Europe, it is about 5G as the next generation access technology that can give you the best route to amazing, cool stuff.
In Asia, the whole 5G argument is about the amazing, cool stuff.
Whether the problem is with the investment mood and the differences between Europe and Asia, caused by political vacuums, or whether it is simply the outlook, it is a very different landscape.
Keeping costs down will mean coverage will be patchy. Patchy coverage is the guaranteed route to a bad customer experience. Patchy in-building coverage (one of the cornerstones of 5G) will mean either more frustration or a win for Wifi 6. Or both.
It is sad for Europe. Executives within telecoms companies in Europe have seen the potential of 5G, have seen that it can allow them to turn the corner and get properly involved in the value chain that is now becoming established through partnerships with content providers. And yet, the people trying to get it to the customers simply cannot.
Just when that telco revenue gap, caused by commoditising voice and text, seemed to be about to close, it looks instead as if that will only start happening in Asia.