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No earth-shattering revolutions, but some prevailing trends and underlying challenges: it’s the general reflection of Gabriel Flichy, Chief Network Officer at Orange Belgium after the Mobile World Congress.
“One thing is clear: the whole world is following the trends in the mobile phone sector with a watchful eye. The Mobile World Congress has become a huge event, where all sectors are represented.” Gabriel Flichy also had this impression after his visit to the High Mass of mobile telephony. What did he also note? "From a strictly technical point of view I didn’t see any remarkable revolutions, but rather some major trends emerging. Outside the appliances and Internet of Things there are less visible and profound movements.
Especially 5G, network slicing (network splitting) and virtualization are at the heart of all upcoming (r)evolutions.
5G is the new radio technology that will ensure better enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC), and ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC). Thanks to eMMB, users will benefit from a better reach and will be able to make the most of our ultra-connected life. And mMTC makes it possible for individuals to easily connect in limited spaces, such as in smart cities. uRLLC finally ensures high reliability and low latency: necessary features to control drones, robots and self-driving cars.
Network slicing and virtualization
"Although this still depends on the type of gadget, we’re beginning to better understand how devices can operate side by side on the same network, for various purposes." "And here’s where network slicing is useful. Certain parts of the network are assigned to a specific use, depending on performance criteria. The connected car is a typical example of the use of short waiting time. And some more futuristic applications, especially in logistics, will largely rely on the connection to manage many objects in a limited space. The key technique of network slicing is virtualization: actually it’s the basis for the concept of ‘network upon request,’” explains Gabriel Flichy
Trends intrinsically generate challenges
Gabriel Flichy seizes the opportunity to pinpoint a few underlying concerns about these technological trends: “For 5G to become a reality, the operators must increase the reach and thus place more antennas. This requires changes in the applicable legislation and reflection on social acceptability and the environmental impact. Vendors and operators need to find ways to implement a phased changeover from 4G to 5G, both for practical and financial reasons.
Another challenge lies in the field of advanced technologies. How can we differentiate gadgets from indispensable products? Gabriel Flichy says: "Many applications that were presented at the MWC can be considered gadgets, but some products are bound to become essential. It is mainly the case for mobile telephones, but not yet for connected watches or virtual reality helmets, for example. And if everyone is banking on the connected car, it’s because it looks more and more as if it’s going to become essential.”
A craze putting business models upside down
According to Gabriel Flichy “The mobile hype is overwhelming. I’m convinced that many business models are changing. The operators are no longer the ones stealing the limelight as they did a few years ago. They remain indispensable to some extent, but producers and sectors that previously were looking from the outside, are today jumping on the mobile bandwagon. New technologies will develop in the medium term, but a lot of work remains to be done in terms of usability".