Sunday, 05 July 2020

Accelerated 5G rollout could boost UK economy £150bn – but can telcos really go any faster?

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 29 June 20

A new report from Vodafone shows potential productivity gains of over £38 billion over the next five years by fast-tracking 5G

Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has left economies devastated, with the UK facing the possibility of the deepest recession of any nation in the developed world. Revitalising the economy will soon be at the forefront of government agenda in nearly every country around the globe.   But how can we jump-start a stalled economy? For many of the more developed countries in the world, 5G is being vaunted as a key technology to drive economic recovery…

Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has left economies devastated, with the UK facing the possibility of the deepest recession of any nation in the developed world. Revitalising the economy will soon be at the forefront of government agenda in nearly every country around the globe.
 
But how can we jump-start a stalled economy? For many of the more developed countries in the world, 5G is being vaunted as a key technology to drive economic recovery. The financial boost the technology could generate is enormous – back in February, the GSMA predicted that 5G will contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy in the next 15 years. These figures, of course, were generated before the scale of the coronavirus pandemic was fully realised but, nonetheless, if just a fraction of that amount can be generated ahead of these predictions it would be a huge relief to economies around the world.
 
Now, a new study by Vodafone shows that accelerating the UK’s 5G rollout by two years could result in an economic boost valued at over £150 billion over the next ten years. Much of this boost in value comes from 5G’s huge predicted impact on industry, ushering in the so-called industrial revolution 4.0, which will use smart sensors, AI, machine learning, and vast amounts of automation to reshape the business world. Beyond industry and the ubiquitous high speeds 5G provides, it will also hold benefits for other key sectors in the country, with healthcare commonly cited as a major beneficiary, allowing for greater telemedicine and near-instantaneous patient monitoring.
 
Given the many benefits of the emerging technology, a heavier focus on 5G seems a natural solution to the UK’s economic woes. However, there are currently many roadblocks, both political and practical. 
 
The ongoing geopolitical conflict between the US and China has seen pressure increasing on the UK to phase out the Chinese 5G vendor Huawei, a move that some, such as Vodafone’s Scott Petty, suggest would drastically slow 5G deployment and cost the UK its ‘lead’ in 5G technology. 
 
“The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment,” said Petty.
 
Even with a supply chain unaffected by geopolitics, accelerating the UK’s 5G rollout by two years would still be a big ask. Deploying the technology itself is expensive and, on the brink of a potential recession, operators are sure to be extra careful with their finances. With 5G such a young technology, many operators are still not entirely sure how they can monetise its incredible potential – while the so-called ‘race for 5G’ is often referred to, in fact the race to efficiently monetise 5G may be more poignant.
 
5G will certainly be a driver of economic growth in the UK post-pandemic, but there are still lots of roadblocks to overcome before the technology can really deliver on its economic potential.
 

Could the UK really accelerate its 5G deployment by two years? Find out what the operators have to say at this year’s Connected Britain 
 
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