Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh warns industry not to over-hype 5G

Johan Wibergh, CTO of Vodafone Group

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany — Johan Wibergh, the CTO of Vodafone Group, said he is concerned that the mobile industry is already beginning to over-hype what 5G can do, and called for caution on what is promised with the next-generation technology.

"You already feel that 5G is going to solve world hunger,” Wibergh said during the NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition, here, this week. “We need to be careful about what we promise…I am a little bit worried about over-hyping.”

Wibergh, who was officially unveiled as the new chairman of the NGMN Alliance on Wednesday, replacing Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, added: “We got 2G and 4G right; we got 3G wrong. Is 5G going to be like 2G/4G or like 3G?”

The Vodafone CTO also stressed there is still a great deal of mileage left in 4G as the industry moves towards 5G -- a message that was echoed by other keynote speakers, including Jacobfeuerborn: “5G is not a revolution; we will do a lot with 4G on the way to 5G,” Jacobfeuerborn said.

Huang Yuhong, deputy general manager at China Mobile Research Institute, also emphasised that the Chinese operator regards 4G as a very important basis for 5G.

“We will continue to enhance 4G-plus,” she said, noting that China Mobile expects to start commercial 5G trials and pilots in 2018 with a commercial launch targeted for 2020.

The speakers were also united in the belief that 5G required clear use cases as well as a global standard. As noted by Yang Chaobin, CMO at Huawei’s wireless network business unit, it is important to understand how 5G will be different from 4G to be able to answer the question from users: “What can 5G do for us?”

Chaobin added that some 5G use cases have become clear in that it is impossible to fulfill them with 4G today. These include cloud-based augmented and virtual reality as well as autonomous cars, he noted.

Deutsche Telekom’s Jacobfeuerborn said it is crucial to ensure than 5G is based on solid business principles, which in turn translates into the requirement to define use cases that will be enabled by 5G.

“5G must be capable of much more than today’s networks,” he said.

As to what stage the 5G standardisation process has now reached, Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said there was both good news and bad news: The good news is that progress has been made in the connectivity layer and the core, he said. However, there are still issues to be resolved in the command and control later -- or the OSS/BSS layers.

“I urge everyone to discuss those issues,” Ewaldsson told the audience during the NGMN conference.

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