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5G Could Have a Bigger Impact Than Any Technology Since Electricity: Telefonica O2’s Derek McManus

5G Could Have a Bigger Impact Than Any Technology Since Electricity: Telefonica O2’s Derek McManus

While claimed 5G speeds are as high as 1 Gbps, in reality it will be around 500 Mbps for most users. And that is 10 times more than what we get on 4G at the moment.


Vishal Mathur

There is a lot of conversation around the 5G mobile networks globally, including in India. The UK has been one of the first countries to commercially roll-out 5G for its customers, with operators EE already offering 5G in a number of cities, with Vodafone and 3 UK expected to join in the coming months. But is 5G really worth the hype? Derek McManus, the Chief Operating Officer of Telefonica O2 gave his views on 5G at the Codex session, a part of the London Tech Week 2019.

McManus says that Telefonica O2 has invested over £2 billion on their network in the last two years, and this he believes will pave the way for 5G. The company has separately confirmed that they will be rolling out 5G networks this year. “Mobile has become a necessity for consumers and businesses alike. It's no longer just a phone. We bank, we shop, we watch content, and we do business on mobiles. In fact, it goes a long way beyond just person to person. For example, Transport for London relies on mobile to manage their timetable and ensure their buses run on time. And Uber, that's the key platform to reach and connect to their customers. And we believe it has even more to offer,” says McManus while adding that while mobiles were once a nice thing to have, they have become a necessity now.

Data on the O2 network is growing at 50% every year. That's the equivalent of building an entire mobile network again from scratch every two years, he says.

With 5G comes the promise of much faster internet speeds on smartphones. But how much, really? “Of course, we've heard of promises of much faster 5g speeds. Some predictions say one gigabit, but in reality, it is likely to be about half of that. About 500 megabits a second, and we shouldn't complain because that is about 10 times the speed we have today on a 4G network,” says McManus. He does add that only a handful of 5G capable smartphones are actually in the market today.

“But 5G is more than just connectivity. I believe that has the potential to transform every sector that it touches, from transport to energy grids, from manufacturing to social and healthcare and from education to entertainment, McManus believes.

“For example, health. In the years to come, we wouldn't need to visit a doctor surgery. In fact, research firm Juniper say that the NHS could benefit with GP hours over video conferencing and real time remote monitoring helped in helping to diagnose problems straight away,” he says.

Telefonica O2 also believe that the government will save a lot of money, thanks to the introduction of things like Smart Lighting, smart refuge collection, as well as improved social care. MIMO cities will increase the livability to the reduction in road congestion and real delays. 5g will offer manufacturers the chance to integrate intelligent mobility into the factories and truly take advantage of such technologies as automation. The opportunity for businesses and organizations is driven by the characteristics of 5G mobile networks.

“5G is not just another G. It not only facilitates mobile broadband, it's ultra-low latency and the ability to connect millions of things at the same time opens up a host of new opportunities,” adds McManus.

There is no denying the fact that governments, telecom companies, and enterprises will have to work in sync to ensure 5G rollouts are a success. Telefonica O2 believes that the 5G networks will be 10 times the size of mobile networks that are available today. One such example is Telefonica O2’s partnership with technology company Bosch. “We're also working with Bosch to test 5G to enable preventive maintenance in factories. To help improve their productivity. We have 100 remote sensors that have been installed on factory machinery to measure key indicators such as same temperature and humidity to help engineers more accurately predict when a machine is heading towards a breakdown,” they say.

5G will play a key role and how countries develop over the next few decades, McManus believes. But he does warn that this will be a success only if the partners, stakeholders and customers collaborate, to ensure that the 5G vision becomes a reality.

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