Mobile industry seeks to put the user at the heart of 5G networks

FRANKFURT, Germany--The mobile industry has often been criticized for putting technology ahead of what users actually want, but operators and vendors appear to placing significantly more effort on putting users first as they prepare for "5G" networks. 

As executives from across the mobile industry gathered here for the NGMN Industry Conference & Exhibition 2015, speakers and panelists alike sought to underline that 5G will start with use cases and not with the technology. The conference aims to build on the momentum generated by the publication of the NGMN Alliance's white paper on 5G that outlined 25 "imagined" use cases for the next mobile generation.

"When we were discussing 4G, we were driven by the fact that 3G was not a success," observed Joachim Horn, CTIO of Tele2. Horn noted that some operators--fresh from spending in what some cases was billions of euros on 3G licences--were not happy, and much of 4G was about trying to solve the shortcomings of 3G networks.

"With 5G, it is very different," said Horn. "LTE is a big success…and that defines the starting point for 5G."

Given that the use cases for 5G are very much "imagined" by looking ahead to the future, Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom and chairman of the NGMN Alliance, also conceded that the industry doesn't yet know where the money will be.

As things stand today, 5G is broadly expected to play a big role in societal and industrial transformation processes as it pervades other sectors and embraces different radio interfaces and forms of connectivity.

"We must reflect this challenge in the technology," Jacobfeuerborn said. That will require a modular, flexible and efficient set of tools based on pervasive and robust technology. He said there will also be a much greater focus on partnerships with other vertical industry sectors and other industry players. "It's a moving target," Jacobfeuerborn added.

Jacobfeuerborn also noted that to ensure another success like LTE, the industry will have to focus on driving a collaborative approach towards the creation of a single standard.

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