Industry Blog

2019 Predictions: Operators face up to the good, the bad and the ugly with 5G

Time to read: 3 minutes

After much planning, discussion and testing, 2019 year will finally see the first meaningful deployments of 5G, and I think it’s fair to say it’s going to change everything. Inspired by some of the findings from the Mobile Video Industry Council, here are some of my thoughts on what 2019 might hold for operators as they plan for and deploy 5G over the course of the year.

OTT surpasses pay TV – transforming mobile video

With 5G promising speeds of anywhere between 10 and 50 Gbps, magnitudes faster than anything 4G can offer, and with an increase in gigabit internet deployments across the globe, OTT content will become easier and faster to access than ever before. As a result, there will be more OTT subscribers than traditional pay TV consumers by the end of 2019. Indeed, subscriptions to streaming services have already begun overtaking pay TV in both the UK and the US.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile will become an increasingly popular means of consuming OTT content, although it’s likely to be an additional screen rather than a replacement. And given the sheer volume of video content, and with the APIs it offers, 5G could soon be regarded as a video distribution network. Delivering a wealth of data for content providers and advertisers, it could truly transform the future of mobile video.

HD video traffic is on the rise

While growth in mobile video content was entirely expected, many operators didn’t anticipate the exponential growth in HD content. Our own research found that, by the end of 2018, 50 percent of all mobile video traffic would be HD, and this is set to increase to around 60 percent in 2019. This growth in HD, in addition to longer viewing times, will drive a further increase in video traffic on mobile networks.

In addition, 2019 will see the launch of yet more streaming services; Apple, WarnerMedia, and Disney+ have already been announced. This is good news for millions of subscribers, of course, but mobile operators now face the challenge of having to handle the resultant increase in traffic and ensuing encrypted protocols which have the potential to wreak havoc on Quality of Experience (QoE).

Get set for 4G RAN congestion

As 5G makes its way through the hype cycle throughout 2019, many operators will be busy preparing the architecture for their own 5G networks. As they do so, and as the appetite of users for ever more data continues to grow, 4G networks – and 4G radio networks (RAN) in particular – will begin to burst at the seams. QoE will suffer as a result, especially when it comes to video streaming, with users gauging network quality based on their video experience.

To survive this, savvy operators must employ efficient, cost-effective solutions to tackle RAN congestion and its potential impact on QoE, while being sure to preserve CAPEX for their impending 5G deployments.

Data management is about to change

Most of the discussion around 5G’s benefits has centered around its high speed, ultra-low latency, and increased connectivity. What few operators have addressed, however, is what it will mean for data management.

The advent of 5G will see an evolution from managing just subscriber data to managing a whole variety of data, from fast-changing session data to long lasting subscription data. 5G’s service-based data architecture presents operators with ‘stateless’ cloud service, however, which, rather than storing data from once session to the next, instead rely on common external data management.

Given the huge complexity of these and other new data management requirements, a ‘common’ data approach is therefore recommended, in which operators will be required to introduce a unified, distributed cloud-based data layer which will help to address a range of concerns around 5G, including network automation and efficiency, latency and mobile edge computing, and monetization and secure data sharing.

The arrival of 5G is going to transform the telecoms landscape, and I can safely predict that 2019 is going to be a year of exciting new opportunities for the industry. But there’s no escaping the fact that it’s also going to be a year of challenges. Operators must be mindful, therefore, that serious consideration must be given to ensuring the infrastructure is in place to deliver the best possible experience for their subscribers, while at the same time maintaining the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their own internal operations.