Network sharing is being touted as a way of enabling innovation and profitability for 5G services, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
During the opening session of MWC Shanghai, the rotating chairman of Huawei, Ken Hu, outlined the lessons we have learnt from a year of lockdown, saying that while small businesses suffered, data traffic grew exponentially – up 70% in some places. He also said that it had evened out. Whereas before, there used to be peak times and quiet times, this is no longer true, nor are the differences between indoor and outdoor usage.
This means that the situation is getting more challenging for network operators, who find it harder to justify the huge, continuing investment in 5G and network sharing may be one solution.
While Ken Hu described the challenge ahead, Malaysia was announcing a solution to the network sharing problem. The Prime Minister announced that the Malaysian Government would create a vehicle that would build the 5G infrastructure, and all licensed network providers would be allowed access to it. The investment is approximately MYR15 billion ($3.7 billion) over 10 years and would, he said, create 105,000 jobs (other sources say many more).
Whilst network sharing may not work in all cases, it does sound like a solution that will reduce the risk to individual companies and allow them to concentrate on creating 5G based solutions that solve real-world problems and build profitability through other services such as gaming.
Also, at the MWC Shanghai event, ZTE President XU Ziyang set out the problems still facing 5G, which, he said, was still in an introductory stage. He noted that there is much to be done in efficiency, power consumption and security.
Network operators sharing assets is nothing new, and there has been some success in sharing towers, for example, but there is room for much more if we will be able to look back on 5G as something that made a real difference to the world.
Network sharing and a more holistic approach to 5G ecosystems will reduce the cost and the risk. And that makes the potential for 5G to be a real game-changer more real – at a time when humanity is relying on technology more and more.