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GSMA Mobile 360 APAC Conference: ‘4G for all or 5G for a few’

“There is a lot of hype about 5G amongst business leaders, policymakers, and the media, but this is not the same revolution of two decades ago when 3G was the big deal and countries jumped on the bandwagon without a clear roadmap,” said Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim, while answering a question on ‘the ways developing countries can be enticed to adopt 5G’.

“The times have changed, now the world is a whole lot smarter and telecom investors are more astute. Policymakers first need to sit with a range of stakeholders to work upon the digital ecosystem including the use cases to support the adoption of technology,” he added.

Ibrahim made these remarks at the ‘Expectations, Experiences & Reality of 5G Journey’ panel discussion held at GSMA’s Mobile 360 APAC conference, moderated by Accenture’s Managing Director Ritesh Chandra. The other two panelists included Smart Communications’ Chief Technology and Information Advisor Joachim Horn, IndosatOreedoo’s COO Vikram Sinha.

The Jazz CEO firmly believed that the ecosystem needed further nurturing and areas of policy developed to entice operators.

Also read: 5G and the future

“5G requires fundamental changes in both investment strategy, spectrum policy and deployment. It also requires much higher upfront investment costs, principally capex, and yet faces higher uncertainty in commercialisation of the novel use cases,” he maintained.

According to Ibrahim, adopting and implementing a 5G network requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders to overhaul outdated policies, ensure availability of affordable smart devices, strike partnerships, garner investments, release spectrum, develop digital skills, create demand, and foster innovation.

“I believe Pakistan should not jump on the 5G bandwagon immediately, because the infrastructure needs work and the enterprise/business use cases are premature to act upon. Regarding consumers, if their demand is faster speeds, we can provide that through a more robust 4G infrastructure,” he added.

Expanding further on his views, Ibrahim stated that those who are already connected to cellular networks but don’t use mobile internet should be the top priority.

“45 percent of the subscribers don’t use mobile broadband while 15 percent of the population lives without any telecom coverage. Countries that have commercially launched 5G have achieved close to 70 percent or more 4G penetration, while this number stands at around 43 percent in Pakistan. We need a 4G for all approach now, rather than 5G for few.”

The views were seconded by Vikram Sinha. “It needs to be more than just a speed game and at Indosat, we are now clear that the consumer’s demand for low-latency services will only be possible if the policies support it. We are also working on some exciting enterprise/business cases but for these to be commercially viable it is important for all stakeholders to collaborate. For us, the 5G journey has to be much more meaningful than the need to create big noise,” said Vikram.

Also read: IT ministry preparing strategic 5G roapmap

IndosatOoredoo launched its 5G services in Indonesia’s city of Surakarta in June this year and has since then expanded to other cities including Jakarta and Surabaya.

Talking about the launch of 5G in the Philippines, Joachim Horn said, “We decided to launch 5G when smartphone prices fell to around USD 150. But on the enterprise side, the situation was completely different. The interest is high but the knowledge is limited, so it takes a lot of education to make businesses understand the opportunity. The road is long and we need to help enterprises integrate 5G into the ecosystem and eventually develop the use case.”

When asked about the lessons from 5G launches in advance economies, Ibrahim said, “We are keenly exploring global 5G case studies and connecting with colleagues from various countries to understand the type of impact 5G has had. We are not oblivious to the advantages but at the same time, we understand that landscapes and policies differ significantly from one country to another.”

For example, he observed, Japan and China have allocated free 5G spectrum and South Korea offers tax breaks to operators to compensate for rollout costs. The decision on when to launch 5G is based on triggers that are localised for each market, given the different stages of 5G readiness.

“We already tested 5G services back in January 2020, but the race to new technology is not currently feasible,” the Jazz CEO concluded.

The users can register for and watch the session using the following link:

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