GSMA Intelligence forecasts that the number of 5G connections globally will reach 1.3 billion by 2025, covering 40 percent of the world’s population or approximately 2.7 billion people. At that time, the Americas region is expected to account for over 260 million 5G connections or 20 percent of the global market.
The question everyone is asking in telco last couple of years is – do we really need 5G? Do we really need that throughput for our voice, video and messaging services? Can we significantly improve real-time communication services so that customers would be willing to pay for it? RCS aka Advanced Messaging is a great example of how difficult it can be to find the right business model for new technologies. EVS supported in 4G is more than what we need for voice calling. Although video calling is possible in 4G, not that many customers are using this option on their mobile devices. More popular than video is desktop-sharing, collaboration and communication in context. Well, lower latency and better throughput can be useful – but is it a reason strong enough to invest into the new 5G infrastructure, when collaboration applies mainly to fixed networks?
5G Drivers. Source GSMA
Still there are real-time communication applications which require low latency and huge amount of data so that 4G is not enough. Virtual Reality (VR) applications like 360-degree video will necessitate higher resolutions of 8K and above, and stereoscopic video (which separates left and right eye views in VR) also requires additional bandwidth. When most people hear about 3D video, holograms, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), they mostly think about gaming. And yes, gaming can be a good example and people like to spend money for entertainment. But there are other examples, where AR and VR can make a difference.
Our current economy is digitized and generates an exponential growth of person-to-person (P2P) transactions. On the other hand we often face challenges around flexibility, trust, identity and authorization that existing financial instruments are sometimes struggling to address.
And that’s where blockchain comes into play. Blockchain is designed as a secure distributed system with high Byzantine fault tolerance. The most successful use cases for blockchain today are related to financial transactions and the management of financial assets. The most famous examples include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple or Hyperledger.
Growth of Cryptocurrencies, © GSMA Intelligence 2018
GSMA Intelligence recently published a new issue of Global Mobile Radar, which analyzes the relationship of blockchain and mobile communications.
GSMA has just recently published the final numbers for 2017. As expected the last year we’ve seen less 4G deployments than in 2016.
4G Deployments in 2017
The only exception was the RCS. (Btw. GSMA released its Universal Profile Version 2.0 for Advanced RCS Messaging.)
From the population coverage point of view the last year meant a great step forward. Although many developing countries have been still more focused on 3G (4G coverage is on average 35% there), the overall number of 4G coverage increased significantly.
Population Coverage, © GSMA Intelligence 2017
The main reasons for that are:
- China has achieved 99% coverage in less than three years and it is now 4G-first
- In India Reliance Jio has beem driving the technological move towards 4G and other operators are following
Technology Migration© GSMA Intelligence 2017
The last time we discussed 5G and IMS. One of the main drivers for 5G is Machine-2-Machine (M2M) communication. But surely 5G is not the only technology which enables Internet of Things (IoT). Many operators already do support proprietary technologies such as SigFox or LoRaWAN. But there are also 3GPP standardized (Release 13) networks for IoT other than 5G. They are LTE-M and NB-IoT, and they both operate on licensed spectrum. These technologies came a bit later, however now it seems they are gaining momentum.
On GSMA pages you can now find an interactive map with the existing IoT deployments.
GSMA IoT Map, © GSMA 2017
Let’s compare LTE-M and NB-IoT and take a look how they can benefit us.
I like statistics. Sometimes it can be misleading or data can be hard to interpret. But it can help us when we struggle to see the forest for the trees.
The last two years the IP-based mobile technologies were booming. If you are working with 4G networks you know it well. This year however the number of new deployments decreased significantly (Sep 2017, source GSMA).
IP Deployments Sep-17
Well, there can be many reasons for that. Rather than guessing, let’s have a fun and take a look on how popular are some telco topics on Google in the last 3 years.
There are plenty of articles about IoT and other new technologies describing what it will be like in the future. I’m always pleased when we get from an initial idea at least to a prototype. For example I can’t wait for Apellix drone to paint my house or clean the windows 🙂
The original concept of European Automatic Emergency Call (eCall) was presented back in 1999. Since that time the project was delayed several times and it was difficult to find anything we could really touch except for some powerpoints. Finally it has started to work at least in pilots. In Prague, Czech republic the first car recently called 112 (emergency) because of a real road accident.
If you have ever come across the IMS-WebRTC integration, you know how much pain is caused, just by the fact that a web-browser is not equipped with a SIM card. With HTML5 every browser can become a terminal. But with IoT practically any device can be plugged in a big global network. So how to make sure that each such a device has all the information it needs in order to securely connect and get its services?
One possibility is a SIM card. Although it might be an overkill for simple applications, for many it can be interesting as a quite proven and also reasonable secure option. Of course, we talk about the Embedded UICC (eUICC) for machine-to-machine devices. Already in the beginning of 2014 T-Mobile USA announced an e-SIM for M2M communications. A few days ago we got a new GSMA version of Remote Provisioning Architecture for Embedded UICC.
Anyway in my view we are just a half way through. The eUICC is still a physical device. So the it can’t be used for virtual m2m agents or the already mentioned WebRTC. And imagine that for some reason we have to replace all eUICC modules in our whole m2m solution… That’s why I’m still waiting for a so-called Soft SIM, which GSMA defines as:
A ‘Soft SIM’ would be a collection of software applications and data that perform all of the functionality of a SIM card but does not reside in any kind of secure data storage. Instead, it would be stored in the memory and processor of the communications device itself (i.e. there would be no SIM hardware layer).