From revenue stagnation to open networks, to delivering wireless to meet user expectations, to the right spectrum policy and regulations, 2024 looks set to be an interesting year for the telecoms sector.
Our Real Wireless experts share their views on the challenges and how they can work collaboratively with clients to address them.
1. The right connectivity
One of the challenges that the industry faces is stagnation in revenue, especially for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). There has been significant investment in 5G, but 5G is not driving enough revenue growth, and investors are getting restless. Getting the right location for base stations and the associated towers is essential, and many opportunities are emerging to consolidate and refinance the tower infrastructure as part of managing costs. There are opportunities for TowerCos and neutral hosts to acquire and build towers and innovation in the associated energy management systems as well.
The fundamental challenges of bringing remote and rural locations into solid connectivity are still weighing on the industry. Governments are applying pressure and encouraging the sharing of infrastructure that can support mobile broadband and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). The emergence of satellite as a viable option is changing the coverage and service availability equations when considering convergence options.
The ability of the wirelessly connected user to choose from various connectivity options is driving innovation in the approaches to Quality of Experience and this in turn influences the way in which infrastructure is deployed. Our proprietary tools bring insights on the deployment architecture choices as well as the measured or forecasted experiences – Real Wireless is well positioned to help our operator, TowerCo and neutral host clients as they continue to invest and optimise the cost of connectivity.
2. Meeting user expectations
The challenges the wireless industry faces remain similar to how they’ve always been. Technology users want and expect the ubiquitous service promised to them in the marketing hype, while the technology industry tries to cope with the expectations upon them, but on a budget. Through an exchange of knowledge and experience, we bridge the gap from the equipment and service supply side to the venues and buildings that are now increasingly having to shoulder the burden of the costs of in-building coverage.
Last year we saw increasing interest in the venues and enterprise segments to engage with innovation and test-bedding of solutions, to de-risk vendor and solution choices. The context of these innovation activities is a longer-term wireless strategy which can be a challenge to articulate – that’s where Real Wireless is helping to overcome those difficulties, working with clients to develop wireless strategies and help them with the journey to realising their goals.
3. Balancing spectrum
If you consider spectrum – lots of low earth orbit, satellite systems options are emerging, and spectrum coordination to ensure they coexist with existing systems and provide the right level of performance.
Spectrum coordination and interference analysis is a key challenge to make sure that there’s no harmful interference into legacy systems and that the emerging systems work as well as intended in a potentially complex interference environment.
Balance is a big challenge for the industry. From a policy-making point of view, ensuring consumers and citizens get the best value from national connectivity assets requires that both the regulators and the regulated work in partnership and with the Real Wireless independent view as we act as an ideal broker between the perspectives.
4. Avoiding the hype
One of the biggest challenges facing the wireless industry today is delivering on the expectations that the wireless industry has set amongst users. So, when 5G was first announced, there was a lot of hype around it and a lot of promises about how it was going to have a transformational impact on the efficiency of operations in businesses. That vision hasn’t yet come out in practice and we’ve got a lot of disappointed users of wireless out there today.
There’s a key role for Real Wireless to play working with companies and users who can see the benefits of wireless use cases in their businesses and the potential of the operational efficiencies that they can achieve. We can guide companies on what practical solutions are readily available today versus the hype and the elements that are still future research and development concepts.
5. Open networks ROI
Open networks/Open RAN is a challenging area. It’s an opportunity as well – a very big opportunity. The large global infrastructure network suppliers have been doing it for several decades and we are now trying to deconstruct that ecosystem and put in place an open system, and that will take a significant amount of time.
One of the overarching challenges for network operators is that for the terrestrial, space-based systems or increasingly converged systems, the return-on-investment calculation is not getting any easier. The amount of capital investment to build out coverage and build new 5G networks is significant. Generally, people won’t pay any extra for 5G, so the returns on that investment have got to come from somewhere else, and looking for those other areas of revenue is key.
John Okas BSc ACGI DMS Chief Commercial Officer
6. The monetisation of 5G
If we were just to focus on the wireless industry or mobile operators in particular as part of that wireless industry ecosystem the challenges of the last few years remain, capital expense on 5G systems development and deploying is substantial. There are rumblings in the mobile operator investors and to some extent Government as to where they see the significant investment but ask “Where is the uptick in revenue and benefit that’s directly traceable back to 5G investments?” Increasing the talk by some on 6G will not go down well unless there are convincing answers to these questions.
And the other challenge that’s being focused on by the operators is in the techno-political domain. Political interest in the sovereignty of technology is causing increased probing into the resilience of supply chains. There is a call for diversification but in mature markets, where bigCos dominate, the policy levers can be hard to find and even more challenging to pull financially. Whilst the Open RAN trend continues, the theme of Open Networks is growing and brings in many future telecom technology areas, we are well placed to advise clients on developing their strategies to navigate this growing strategic challenge.
Simon Fletcher MEng MBA MIoD MIET Chief Executive Officer
Meeting the challenges head-on
At Real Wireless we work with clients to find solutions to the challenges, and we have numerous projects that illustrate our experience across the Telecoms ecosystem.