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Legitimate concern or an industry seeking to limit competition? Industry wants to forge ahead with URLLC, but MNOs want to protect their markets.

The recent Fokus Fuseco 5G Forum, of which we were a proud supporter, was notable for the number of participants from industry and vertical sectors. Of course, that was expected because the main topic was network slicing, which is specifically designed to support optimised but separate network instances and resources. Demand for such slices comes from a number of sources, but industry is one of the most vocal.

This is because industrial players have spent a great deal of time thinking about how 5G can benefit their businesses. Across different industrial segments, there are very different priorities and requirements for solutions that will depend on URLLC capabilities, supported by network slicing. So, while there is a common definition of URLLC, implementation will differ widely according to specific requirements, a theme to which we will return in a future post on the Fokus event.

However, one clear conclusion from the event is worth reporting, particularly in the context of recent news. Many of the speakers from industry questioned the ability of MNOs to deliver the specific (and often different) URLLC capabilities that they believe they need. How can MNOs deliver services to support eMBB at the same time as supporting the URLLC we want, where we want it? Some went further, stating that they would prefer to deploy and manage their own networks, trusting in their own resources to deliver the performance they require.

They were supported in this by news that the German telecoms regulator intends to reserve 10 per cent of spectrum for industrial and other purposes. However, this has been roundly attacked by the GSMA, according to recent reports in media channels, such as TelecomTV. The GSMA believes that such restrictions would negatively impact the rollout and development of 5G and suggests that they would lead to a lack of competition by allowing other entrants to meet lower coverage goals.

But, this is exactly what industry wants. They do not need to deploy nationally, only locally in specific campuses or industrial sites. As such, they seek to leverage IMT-2020 requirements for their specific use cases, but they neither seek nor desire to offer public or national services.

So, is the mobile industry right? It’s clear that URLLC will unlock many valuable applications and use cases – we’re only just beginning to explore these boundaries – and there are many definitions of such cases emerging from a wide range of industrial stakeholders, from Siemens, to Bosch and Volkswagen, from the public-sector broadcast community to agriculture, but many MNOs are still scratching their heads. Is it likely that they can deliver what industry wants? Or, must industry forge its own path, in order to secure the commercial benefits of 5G capabilities?

If MNOs cannot give industry the specific capabilities they need then there will be no choice but for industry to make its own investments. As such, the German regulator looks to be acting in the best interests of the industry as a whole – and MNOs should either show how they will respond positively to industrial demands or cease complaining.