LIVE FROM TM FORUM DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION WORLD, NICE, FRANCE: Canada currently looks set to fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to the launch of 5G services because its spectrum allocation plan is no longer aligned with global trends, the CTO of a leading operator warned.
Speaking to Mobile World Live (MWL), here, Telus CTO Ibrahim Gedeon said the current schedule of the government’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) department to focus first on the allocation of frequencies in the 600MHz band and then on mmWave frequencies did not reflect the growing international support for 3.5GHz as a primary band for early 5G launches.
As things stand, ISED plans to start the auction for 600MHz spectrum in March 2019.
“We’ll be lucky to get 3.5GHz in 2020,” observed Gedeon, pointing out the spectrum had already been allocated for fixed wireless access (FWA) services and so would first have to be taken back before it could be released for 5G.
“So we might be behind the rest of the world on 5G.”
Telus has already carried out 5G tests using 3.5GHz spectrum and called on the wireless industry and government to prioritize this band of spectrum for 5G.
Canada-based rival Rogers Communications is also keen on 3.5GHz spectrum: in April a representative told MWL the frequency would be used in upcoming 5G trials it plans to conduct with Ericsson. The frequency is also among those included in the 3GPP’s first 5G specification released in December 2017, while South Korea plans to auction 28 blocks in the band in June. In the US, the CBRS Alliance is currently arguing the case for the frequency.
The outlook for 5G is not the only thing keeping Gedeon awake at night: he also worries about the proliferation of low-cost IoT devices with no security and said a network-based solution is required to ensure that consumers are adequately protected.
In terms of the main conference focus on digital transformation strategies for operators, Gedeon is also clearly no fan of the word “transformation” because it suggests there is an endpoint to the process: “I am transforming something all the time,” he said. “It never ends.”
Telus’ CTO suggests it would be dangerous for any telco to think it was done with transforming itself, as it should always be looking ahead to the next thing.
“The industry has been in trouble for at least 30 years, but it has survived,” he quipped, pointing out the insatiable demand for bits has not changed.
Operators often take differing approaches to “maintaining wealth” and keeping costs down. Telus, for example, has not followed the example of some by buying content, preferring to act as curator and aggregator for its customers. It also invested in health and has been on a 12-year journey to transform the healthcare system in Canada.
“We invest in health because we think we can make money,” Gedeon said. “Never lose track of why we are here.”