Sunday, 25 October 2020

Ericsson reiterates 5G's impact on the digital divide in the UK at this year’s Connected Britain

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 23 September 20

“5G will be the backbone of the UK’s economic recovery,” said Ericsson’s VP and head of networks and managed services in Europe and Latin America, Christian Leon.

With uncertainty surrounding potential ‘high risk vendors’, 5G's journey in the UK was on shaky ground at the start of 2020. But, even as that uncertainty subsided, a new challenge dawned on the horizon: the coronavirus.  Despite the many setbacks caused by the global crisis, UK 5G deployment has continued at an impressive pace, leaving the UK in an enviable international position when it comes to the new technology. The UK is ranked sixth globally when it comes to 5G…

With uncertainty surrounding potential ‘high risk vendors’, 5G's journey in the UK was on shaky ground at the start of 2020. But, even as that uncertainty subsided, a new challenge dawned on the horizon: the coronavirus. 

Despite the many setbacks caused by the global crisis, UK 5G deployment has continued at an impressive pace, leaving the UK in an enviable international position when it comes to the new technology. The UK is ranked sixth globally when it comes to 5G, according to stats from Omdia, with only Switzerland leading the UK within Europe. 

But while this is no small feat and should be celebrated, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the UK retains or even improves its position in 5G, while its European neighbours are hot on its heels.

For Christian Leon, VP and head of networks and managed services in Europe and Latin America for Ericsson, the key to 5G acceleration is acknowledging its necessity in the post-COVID world. 

Speaking at this year’s Connected Britain event, Leon noted that countries with a high level of digitalisation coped better with the lockdown than those with lower levels. He pointed to online retail as one key metric, with it having experienced a huge increase during the lockdown period equal to the cumulative increase of the last three years. Now, once the pandemic does lift, there will be an expectation on the part of the customers for these online capabilities to continue. To do this, we will need 5G.

“5G is the cornerstone for the digitalisation of the UK,” said Leon. “We need to build 5G in a ubiquitous fashion.”

One of the UK’s key ambitions is to bridge the digital divide, providing gigabit connectivity to all, and this is another area in which 5G can have a major impact. While fibre deployment will play a more direct role in reaching those without gigabit connectivity, 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) is rapidly becoming a viable alternative. Cheaper, faster, and less disruptive than fibre, operators are quickly expanding their 5G FWA offerings.

“Globally, two-thirds of operators with 5G are bundling or proposing a 5G FWA offer,” said Leon.

Furthermore, 5G will of course unlock the fabled Industry 4.0. But what does this really mean in practical terms? 

“The first thing is site maintenance,” explained Leon. “Many factories rely heavily on cables for connectivity, which can lead to accidents when cables get cut, and when you need to retool you have to remove all these cables. Going wireless – connecting the factory through 5G – can reduce site management costs by up to 20%.”

Likewise, further savings can be generated in terms of site maintenance, allowing engineers to use augmented reality to superimpose information over the equipment, helping in the repair process. 

“We’re using this in our own Ericsson factories,” explained Leon. “We’ve seen a reduction of up to 10% of the overall maintenance costs. These are just two specific examples of the big potential that is out there and could be realised for industry in the UK." 

In a post-COVID-19 world, with economies struggling to recover, governments can no longer afford to consider 5G a luxury and must begin to view it as a national necessity.

 

Connected Britain is taking place right now! Follow the action with #ConnectedBritain

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