July 28, 2021

Guest Blog: On-Demand 5G and Network Convergence to Bring Connectivity to All

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Over the past 18 months, the telecoms industry has delivered the connectivity needed to power the UK through the pandemic. Now it’s time to look ahead and focus on building the network of the future to drive growth and deliver new, and improved, customer experiences. To achieve this, we need to think about connectivity differently.  

Bringing together the best of mobile and fixed

Connectivity today is often talked about in two main categories – fixed and mobile, or inside and outside of the home. Both are important, and both are high performing as individual networks. But even better customer experiences can be achieved when the two are bought together to create one seamless, ultra-reliable network.

Combining the two creates a unique, smart infrastructure and represents an overhaul of network technology as we know it today. Together they can bring greater reach, reliability, scale and speed that will improve the overall customer experience and meet the ever-growing increase in demand for connectivity. A demand that, for us, manifests itself as a 40% increase in network traffic year on year.

For consumers, a converged network translates to a super-responsive network. Gamers for example will be able to benefit from that all-important latency advantage over other players, and those of us that stream our favourite films, TV series and live sport in 4K quality will enjoy more uninterrupted viewing without buffering frustrations. And beyond the platforms we use and love today, a converged network will enable new apps and services to be created and launched almost as quickly as they can be imagined.  

Diversifying solutions to bring connectivity anywhere

As well as combining the capability of mobile and fixed networks, expanding connectivity so it’s available anywhere it’s wanted is an integral part of building the network of the future. That doesn’t mean making coverage available everywhere all the time, but instead that connectivity is available when a person needs it.  

The key to achieving this is innovation and diversification of connectivity solutions. When we think of mobile infrastructure today, we think of what we call the macro network – permanent masts and antennas. But in areas where mobile use is both low and intermittent, ‘on demand’ coverage offers a more viable option – both logistically and financially.

Some temporary solutions are already available, while other technologies are emerging. Rapid response vehicles for example are portable masts, deployable for a range of scenarios that over the past year have included supporting replacement coverage following arson attacks, to aiding emergency services communications at remote accidents. They’re a proven way of expanding networks to reach traditionally difficult and hard-to-reach locations, and key to ensuring that whenever people want to be connected, they can be – a big boost to customer experience. LEO satellites meanwhile, after years of challenging economics, are now achieving the kind of scale that could prove of use in remote connectivity.

Widening the range of such solutions is key to addressing different customer requirements at different times. Whether it’s emergency cover for a remote expedition, needing temporary coverage during construction in isolated areas or wanting additional capacity for a small island festival, we want to ensure there is a requestable solution that meets customers’ individual needs.

By converging high-performing networks, and exploring new technologies to deliver connectivity, the industry stands in good stead to build a far more inclusive network of the future. If we can get this balance right, there’s no reason a combination of our permanent infrastructure and ‘on demand’ solutions can’t extend the reach of 5G to the entire UK.

Marc Allera

This guest blog was written by Marc Allera, CEO of BT's Consumer Division. Learn more about this author via Twitter and LinkedIN. You can also follow him on Instagram.

About Building Mobile Britain

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Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

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