For service providers and their customers, 5G holds the potential for revolutionary economic change. However, 5G new radio technologies by themselves won't enable operators to fully utilise 5G.

Guest author

August 23, 2022

5 Min Read
5th Generation Mobile Network, 5G Wireless System periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Jai Thattil, Head of Service Provider Strategic Marketing at Juniper Networks, takes a look at how 5G is likely to evolve in the UK.

In 2019, BT, O2, Talk Talk, Three and Vodafone began deploying 5G, and they have since kept expanding their networks throughout the UK. According to a recent poll of UK businesses conducted by UK5G, the majority of UK companies (70 percent) either already use or intend to install 5G services and networks. While cost and availability are still major obstacles to adoption. Most 5G masts are being built in major metropolitan locations and the capacity of current mobile data services is increasing, 5G deployment is also beginning to expand into busy suburban areas and transportation corridors.

While the pandemic may have slowed down the adoption of 5G, it unquestionably had no impact on the growth of the communications sector overall, but rather reconfigured the approach to 5G enablement. The 5G use cases predicted haven’t entirely materialised just yet, but they are still expected in the near future. Fixed and mobile communication infrastructures have gained greater significance in the UK than ever before, network investment has surged, and 5G-related business is projected to soar.

To further assist mobile providers in extending and enhancing mobile coverage, the UK Government proposed new planning legislation . With this new legislation, telecom companies would be able to modify existing infrastructure rather than erect new masts, therefore fewer phone masts will be required overall to even out the nation with greater 4G and 5G mobile coverage. With this, mobile operators would be able to extend mobile coverage and capacity further and faster across the whole of the UK.

Roadblocks for 5G

As 5G networks spread across the UK, service providers are noting potential roadblocks to the next generation of network implementation. When it comes to businesses and home networks, there are multiple barriers. They are dealing with various potential problems that require different approaches. Poor infrastructure, such as limited radio connectivity and transport signals due to real estate for 5G masts, is preventing 5G from being delivered smoothly and securely. A shortage of suitable equipment has added to the problems, while limited access to mobile airwaves and poor communication between local authorities have further compounded the complexity. Another major issue in both rural and urban regions is access to fibre networks.

According to a survey by Analysys Mason, network providers have also predicted that 70 percent of UK sites will require updated backhaul data transport within the next four years to satisfy 5G requirements. Backhaul can be transmitted over physical cables such as fibre or wireless microwave lines and forms the connection between base stations and a mobile operator’s core network.

The UK Government’s 5G agenda intends to make the country a global leader; however, full-fibre support is necessary for low-latency network connectivity, which is currently lacking. Collaboration between local governments and network providers is crucial to ensuring that the deployment is successful in all areas, especially given the Government’s objective of having the majority of the population able to access 5G by 2027.

Achieving 5G’s Full Potential

For service providers and their customers, 5G holds the potential for revolutionary economic change. However, 5G new radio technologies by themselves won’t enable operators to fully utilise 5G.

The study by UK5G found that 73 percent of organisations were convinced that they understand the benefits of 5G mobile (mobile broadband) technology, while 70 percent have a plan for how they will use it to attain a competitive advantage. Furthermore, 66 percent of respondents think 5G will benefit their companies’ sustainability initiatives and enhance consumer experience (65 percent). But certain issues still exist.

The components that makeup 5G include those for radio access, transport and core networks. For higher levels of orchestration, security and service assurance, 5G also depends on automation. Because of this, creating a 5G network requires the following elements for a unique ecosystem:

  • Open RAN – The goal of open RAN is to democratise the network. It allows 5G network operators to speed up innovation and give their customers a unique experience. An open ecosystem approach to network expansion is at the heart of Open RAN culture. This strategy challenges the current vendor ecosystem and seeks to fundamentally alter how radio networks are implemented, run, and used to generate value.

  • Cloud Metro – Across scattered cloud services, the Cloud Metro multiservice architecture reliably provides assured user experiences. One may meet or exceed customer expectations for every service while removing the expense and complexity of segregated metro operations by utilising network slicing, service-aware technology and cloud-scale capabilities.

  • Automation – For network operators, the quality of the service is a key differentiation. Keeping up with end-user expectations is insufficient. You must surpass them, which necessitates a responsive, perceptive, elastic and robust network. The service assurance required to attain that competitive edge will be provided by automation.

  • Security systems – Numerous risks that may disrupt services are faced by network operators. By leveraging the complete network infrastructure to detect attacks on multiple fronts and extending that threat intelligence to all connection points across the network, an integrated security system is essential to protect users, apps and infrastructure.

Integrating these components end-to-end is necessary to deliver the unique customer experience that enables operators to leverage the value of 5G.

Where next for 5G in UK?

Due to its favourable regulatory environment, the UK has always been at the forefront of telecom innovation. Promoting open, interoperable software-based solutions and diversifying the telecom vendor supply chain go hand-in-hand. The UK’s current challenge is to actively promote this future. This will open the market for new 5G entrants, including those from the UK, and bring about previously unheard-of potential for cost reduction, innovation and the development of new business models̶̶all to the ultimate good of the user experience.

While the 5G rollout is ongoing in the UK, numerous systems and infrastructures must be in place before the full transition can be accomplished. To provide a more reliable and long-lasting platform for service providers, 5G must be part of a larger revolution that also includes cloud and automation technologies. The commercial change of service providers cannot be fuelled by 5G alone. Service providers must take cloud, 5G and automation into account as a whole to fully realise value and take advantage of the opportunities that these technologies bring.


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