Editor’s Corner—CES recap: 5G steals some of the spotlight

CES 2018 sign
(Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)
Monica Alleven editor's corner

LAS VEGAS—It’s a CES to remember, not only because of the power outages. 5G is stealing even more of the spotlight than before, with keynotes, show floor demonstrations and announcements galore.

The keynote roster included a Wednesday morning panel on 5G mobile innovation, with speakers from Verizon, Qualcomm and Baidu. Artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous cars and connected everything (IoT) were everywhere. Everyone, it seems, is talking about how 5G will transform so many other industries.

RELATED: Editor's Corner—Industry needs to do more to include other networks in 5G

But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say, the wireless industry has a lot more work ahead if it’s truly going to bring other industries into the 5G fold. Yes, individual companies are conducting trials and have been reaching out to other industries for quite some time; we saw some of that at last year’s Mobile World Congress, including at Ericsson’s booth.

Yet 5G, at least in my mind, will require far greater strides and tighter integration than ever before, and that’s going to require some innovative ways to get these other folks into the discussion, because I don’t think we’ve needed to bring them in to this degree ever before.

Arguably, the standards bodies, where the technical specifications are being decided and written, are good candidates for reaching out to these other industries. Indeed, ETSI's communication manager, Claire Boyer, told FierceWirelessTech this week that reaching out to other industries has been a strategic topic for ETSI over the last few years and should be for any other Information and Communications Technology (ICT) standards body.

ETSI is involved in the Industry 4.0 initiative, which is much more than just an industrial IoT, as it will require a complete embrace of ICT in all business processes related to manufacturing. In 3GPP, nontelco participants are actively involved in bringing their own requirements, including automotive, utilities, rail, agriculture, industrial equipment manufacturers and more.

Beyond 5G in ETSI, a number of initiatives are driven by the needs of other industry sectors, Boyer said. ETSI is a partner in oneM2M, a global initiative for IoT standardization; oneM2M is currently working on addressing the requirements of the automotive and industrial domains. The ETSI smartM2M committee is adapting oneM2M specifications to the needs of the smart appliances, automotive, agri-food, smart cities, eHealth/Aging and manufacturing industries. In smart cities, a group was recently created to provide a clear technology road map for city leaders; a key aspect of the group is that it is pushed and led by cities themselves.

ETSI and 3GPP are doing a lot to attract new sectors to their work with some success, but there’s always room for more participation, Boyer said. As the first full set of 5G standards is to be finalized in June of this year, it’s a good thing they jumped in, but it’s not too late to get involved, she added.

RELATED: CES panel: Things could go wrong in 5G rollout, but it’s going to happen regardless

Vendors and operators now and then have noted the need for increased involvement on the part of other industries. Back at the inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas show in September, Nokia’s Hossein Moiin, currently technology adviser and its former CTO, said during a panel on 5G that something is missing in the broad scheme of things: “We’re not really doing as much to reach out to other industries to help them solve some of the challenges,” he said.

Flash forward to this year and during a panel at CES 2018 on Monday, Erik Ekudden, CTO and head of technology and architecture at Ericsson, said there’s no question that there’s demand for 5G in terms of capacity and what consumers are doing. People and things are gobbling up data as fast as networks can dole it out.

But he alluded to an even bigger task: The industry must come together and make sure 5G provides valuable and unique opportunities for industries. Individual companies like Ericsson are engaged with various industries, but there’s a longer road and more work to do in terms of educating and making the 5G network available to enterprises and others.

Near the end of Wednesday’s keynote, former Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, now EVP and president of Global Networks and CTO at Verizon, said in 2018, there will be much more discussion around 5G, and many more companies are going to think about what they’re going to do with it. He predicts more collaboration will happen around the 5G ecosystem in the coming year.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if the next big 5G panels include not only wireless companies but also their partners in other industries to show just how great an impact 5G is having on them. But until the industry builds some serious bridges with these other industries, it’s still just going to be a dog and pony show. If there’s anything that could go wrong with 5G, it might be the failure to bring these other industries fully on board.

All in all, CES 2018 proved to be what CES is all about: long lines, lots of talk and loads of over-the-top marketing, which is kind of the definition of a popular trade show. The 5G discussion will continue when we all convene for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Time to get packing. — Monica | @fiercewrlsstech