It’s been apparent for some time that the 5G industry somewhat split on the important matter of fixed and mobile convergence. Originally, on one side were what I now think of as the ‘5G takes all’ camp. These seemed to have the strongest set of voices in the early 5G days and their vision was pretty much that 5G would sweep all before it.
This seemed fairly extreme, even at the time, and was often driven by the idea that a stronger, carrier-driven ‘G’ would enable mobile telcos to reclaim mobile services domination and elbow out the ‘OTTs’ who were ‘eating their lunch’:
Back in the day, if the game was thought to be about displacing OTT services and promoting 5G mobile services instead, then openness and convergence might not be seen as particularly helpful.
As time has jogged on, however, the opposing “openness tendency” within 5G (and to a certain extent with the fixed side) has come more to the fore and that has lead to a big change in sentiment.
The Broadband Forum has just announced a ‘milestone moment’. It says it has developed converged fixed/5G core network proposals in league with 3GPP, the standards organisation for 5G, and it thinks this represents a major step forward for the whole industry.
The proposals made by Broadband Forum, it claims, were created at the request of carriers that participate in both Broadband Forum and 3GPP and were developed after a comprehensive cycle of iterative feedback between the two organizations (see today’s – Broadband Forum delivers recommendations for converged 5G core network to 3GPP).
Convergence has apparently won. So what’s changed?
Convergence of fixed and mobile now has serious push. According to the Broadband Forum: “Two years ago, [after the publication of a white paper], ten of the world’s biggest operators came to us with their concerns that the 5G infrastructure which was being developed would not let them take advantage of both their wireless and wireline networks,” says Geoff Burke, CMO of Broadband Forum. “Today, we are able to deliver a set of recommendations which will not only address how the 5G core can be evolved to support the fixed networks of these operators but provide them with the capabilities to launch new innovative combined subscriber offerings.”
There are certainly more big operators in Europe now who have both a fixed and mobile business and who are keen to engineer converged access solutions – BT in the UK springs to mind immediately.
And there are just as many big mobile operators who have invested in fibre broadband access and need to do the same thing from the other side of the fence.
So the old idea of driving out other networks in favour of an ‘end-to-end 5G proposition’ never looked particularly serious. Now, in today’s environment it looks like a nonstarter.
Clearly, standards setting is always slow, the more important the standard, the slower the progress.
“Thinking about it, setting key standards like these ones is always difficult because there are so many people pulling in different directions,” says Robin Mersh, Chief Executive Officer of Broadband Forum. “And also, it’s not always clear what the main applications are going to be for the operators, so the main task is to get enough people contributing the requirements. Without eventual clarity on requirements and then marrying those with the promise of all the new technologies, it’s very hard to move forward.”
In the end, says Robin, it’s a compelling business case that tends to galvanise all the actors in the standards setting process, and that’s what happened here. Many big operators see video support across both fixed and 5G as the big knock-out requirement. Once that happens you have movement.
“The next piece is the hard graft of doing all the technical work,” says Robin. – Telecom TV