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O2 Blue Door Conference: The path to 5G

Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer of O2, gave his assessment of the possibilities of 5G and what the path to launch looks like at our recent O2 Blue Door Conference.

Having worked in this industry for 30 years, I truly believe that we are living through a period of exciting developments and innovation at an unprecedented rate of change.

We have seen mobile evolve first from 2G to 3G and now to 4G. Today 4G mobile connectivity is about connecting consumers to the people and things they love, through a variety of personal devices. Demand for data is growing by 60% a year, the equivalent of building our entire mobile network again, from scratch, in about 18 months.

It is tempting to think of 5G as a replacement for 4G, but it isn’t. At O2, we are committed to growing our existing network and we continue to invest £2m every day to make the experience for businesses even better. Mobile is and will continue to be one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of British citizens, and 5G is the next stepping stone on that journey.

5G represents an important chapter in the story of the evolution of mobile technology. It’s about building connectivity into the fabric of our society, creating an integrated infrastructure that will connect buildings, transport and utilities. It provides a substantial opportunity to develop and improve the way our energy, transport, healthcare and retail sectors operate. But to benefit properly from 5G, it’s essential that we set out on the right path from day one, and establish the ecosystem for 5G that will enable it to flourish and deliver the benefits promised.

“I’m convinced 5G is going to have a bigger impact on the way we live than any new technology we’ve seen since the introduction of electricity.“

The global vision

Last year I was fortunate to visit a number of countries in Asia to see first-hand how 5G is being designed into infrastructure to prepare for and secure the possibilities it offers. There is excitement about the race to deliver next generation connectivity in a bid to showcase their expertise to the world.

What I found particularly interesting is that the benefits each country stands to gain from 5G differs from country to country. For example, China is looking to use 5G to accelerate process engineering and automated production. South Korea is aiming to cement its position as a world leader in e-sports and video streaming, something they showcased so successfully at the recent Olympics. Regardless of application, what really struck me was how crucial mobile infrastructure is to each country’s economy. It’s clear to me that when you have alignment between regulators, local and central government, progress rapidly accelerates.

Paving the way

At O2 we have already been taking steps to pave the way for the roll out of 5G in the UK. We’re prepared with the spectrum we need and we will be installing a 5G test bed at The O2. We are also rolling out small cell technology that will lay the foundations for our customers to enjoy 5G throughout the UK.

The implementation of 5G is not a project for O2, or any other mobile operator, in isolation. We must work together with our customers, with government, Ofcom, other mobile operators, handset manufacturers and businesses for it to become a reality and benefit us all.

So how could 5G change industries as we know them today?

Here are just four examples:

1. Remote working / Conference calling:

The massive bandwidth and low latency will mean that your video calls will never buffer again. You will be able to meet and collaborate with your colleagues in the cloud, and with the help of Artificial Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications, each of you could be ‘seated’ around the board room table.

2. Improved supply chain management:

5G can deliver real time tracking and traceability of a product within a supply chain. You could attach 5G-enabled IoT sensors to your products not just to track their location, but also to report moisture, temperature, pressure and other parameters to provide real time feedback about their status and condition.

3. Flexible office spaces:

5G enabled sensors and cameras could monitor occupancy of a space, and adjust lighting and temperature accordingly. CCTV footage could be streamed live to mobile devices. In short, 5G could enable safer, flexible and more efficient working spaces with a reduced carbon footprint.

4. Healthcare:

O2’s own research suggests that the NHS could free up 1.1 million GP hours with 5G enabled tele-health video conferencing and real-time remote health monitoring. There are benefits for social care, too, with the potential to employ 5G enabled sensory devices to monitor the health and wellbeing of patients and those in care.

Here at O2, we are very excited about the possibilities of 5G and its potential to change the way we live and work. But it will take a joint effort – all of us working together to make this vision a reality. We hope you are looking forward to join us on what will be a long but opportunity filled journey.

Find out more about O2’s vision:

The value of 5G for cities and communities

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