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Friday, 21 February 2020 16:08

The 5G operator business model challenge

The 5G operator business model challenge 

In my day to day work for clients such as GCF I am often in touch with stakeholders from across the mobile industry and (increasingly) with industry leaders in other industry sectors who are looking to capitalise on 5G technologies. The topic of 5G business models is never far from my mind in these discussions so rather than store this all up, I thought I would start to blog about it. I’ll aim to post regularly. Please use the comments section to let me know what you think and if you have any questions.

What are the key challenges facing the mobile industry?

In November 2019 I led a 5G conference in Dubai titled ‘Building a 5G World’. A key theme of the conference was what use cases and businesses would 5G enable and how should industry actors (in particular operators) go about developing these use cases and businesses? To lay the ground for the discussion I summarised the challenge operators face as follows:

Mobile operators are mature businesses with low sales growth



Mobile operators are profitable but are capital-intensive businesses – most make low returns. 






Making money out of IoT is a major challenge 


Why is it challenging to make money ‘beyond smartphones’? 

There are many reasons why operators are finding it challenging to make money out of IoT and (by extension) 5G services beyond mobile service (think connected and autonomous vehicles, connected/smart manufacturing, smart cities etc). There are challenges around how to identify and develop ideas into new businesses taking account of competitive pressures; how to organise the business in order to serve these new markets; getting the technology roadmap right etc. I will explore each of these issues in more detail in future posts, but the key point is that there is a long way to go to solve these issues – and it is an interesting question as to how successful operators can be in deriving substantial new revenues from the digital transformation of society.

How can operators improve their IoT / 5G businesses?

There are lots of potential ways – I'll explore these more in future posts.

- Prioritise industry sectors / markets by their propensity to use and deploy 5G and IoT tech. When will there be a need? Why is there a need? What bottlenecks exist and why?

- Understand the evolving competitive environment in potential markets. What markets are attractive, which ones less so? How should the organisation develop its capabilities to best address the emerging environment? Who should operators work/partner with and why?

I’ll explore these issues further in future posts.

Published in Mobile industry