Why Do We Need Greater Connectivity? Making The Case For 5G And New Ultra-Fast Broadband Deployment

Paul Lee, Head of Tech, Media and Telecoms Research at Deloitte UK (Photo © Digital Luxembourg)

Paul Lee is a UK Partner and the Global Head of Research for the technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) industry at Deloitte. He participated in the recent Connecting Tomorrow conference. Here are the main points and takeaways discussed with him.

There are quite a few trends that we’ve covered in this report, but one of the underlying themes is the continuing demand for more and more connectivity. One of the major drivers of this is demand for video, particularly higher resolution video – with resolution now up to 8K, and often 4K, with ever higher frames per second, meaning ever larger files. At the network level, we predict that Open RAN – which would enable more providers to come into the mobile network market, will become increasingly significant over the years, with mainstream impact when 6G starts at the end of this decade.

We will shortly be releasing our predictions for 2022, and will be pleased to share these with your readers as soon as they are published.

How sustainable are new connectivity innovations, including 5G, in terms of both environmental friendliness and technology sustainability? Isn’t the race for ever faster connectivity too frantic?

One of the benefits of better connectivity is a reduced need to travel. Over the past 20 months, we’ve seen the benefit of networks everywhere in enabling video calling. As of 2021, we’ve become used to fairly low resolution video calls, but over time, people will start expecting and demanding ever higher quality calls. This implies that fewer business trips may be necessary. It is the case that using networks consumes energy, but it is at a far lower level than would be the case for any flight, car or train journey.

5G actually offers massive reductions in energy required per gigabyte of data transferred – up to 90% lower. Whilst it will be the case that we will send more data over 5G, the emissions per gigabyte are likely to outweigh this. One other benefit of 5G base stations is that they’re designed to go into a very low energy standby mode when there is no device in the vicinity. When this happens the base station can power down as needed; this is a capability that is not available with any other cellular network technology including LTE (4G).

“With standalone 5G the cost per gigabyte carried may be as lower as 1 cent wholesale.”

Paul Lee

Is there a particular example of innovation in connectivity that has caught your attention recently?

I think what’s really interesting is how the core applications of cellular mobile can evolve over time. For example mobile has not been competitive in providing a home broadband connection for any household wanting to do consume or send video. But with standalone 5G (which will be launching soon) the cost per gigabyte carried may be as lower as 1 cent wholesale (or €10 for one terabyte wholesale). This may be low enough to make this application of 5G price competitive with fixed broadband.

What were your personal key “takeaways” that you would like to share with us?

For one, it was very interesting to be able to present in person, and also to hear from other speakers in the same room. As a speaker, feedback from the audience, be this a smile or a shrug, is fundamentally useful feedback that you just don’t get when you’re online, and the only visual cues as to whether you’re resonating with the audience is via pixelated rectangles.

It was also great to speak to exhibitors in person in a way that can’t just be replicated online. I had some really interesting conversations about 5G in space that would have been more difficult to have when online, just because of the fact that in person, an introduction takes seconds, whereas online we rely on emails and scheduled calls, which dampens spontaneity. And last but not least, these events are always a great occasion to also connect with my colleagues from Deloitte Luxembourg and exchange. I am already looking forward to coming back in January on 25th for the next local TMT prediction event.

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