CDOs Take Note: The Real 5G Revolution Starts Indoors

Mention 5G and many see a speedier mobile connectivity platform. Frost & Sullivan see it as the connectivity that will shape your indoors.

The conclusion comes from the firm’s latest survey. It was conducted at the fifth annual Asia Pacific Spectrum Management Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Seventy-nine percent said they would rate a mobile operator based on their indoor network quality. Ninety-three percent also noted that digital indoor systems (DIS) are becoming vital.

It is easy to see why respondents rated DIS as necessary. Eighty percent of network traffic originated within buildings and houses, said the survey. The number will only increase as we start using more IoT, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 8K live video streaming, and location-based services (LBS) applications indoors.

"This means that improving customer experience indoors to monetize 5G will become a priority and of utmost importance. This coupled with users increasingly becoming critical of their mobile operators when it comes to the indoor environment require that mobile operators focus on indoors for the next wave of growth," said Mei Lee Quah, associate director, ICT, Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific.

5G is designed for indoor connectivity, offering an alternative to wiring indoor buildings or using WiFi. The technology also supports network slicing, creating virtual connectivity for defined use cases. It offers CDOs potential use cases. For example, they can run manufacturing wirelessly. Alternatively, it allows employees to switch to indoor corporate networks when entering a building.

In turn, the need for DIS will soar. It will also replace the use of distributed antenna systems (DAS).  Four verticals will gain the most. They include retail, media and entertainment, tourism and hospitality, and industrial manufacturing.

According to Frost & Sullivan, shopping malls are becoming shopping experience centers. DIS provides value add network-based services such as AR/VR game services and heat maps to drive retail spend.

For media and entertainment, 5G stadiums are gearing up for new thrills using AR. A good example is the AR fire-breathing wyvern on opening day 2019 at Munhak Baseball Stadium in South Korea.

In tourism and hospitality, smart hotels are shaping new customer experiences. The InterContinental Shenzhen in China is paving the way here. It recently deployed the industry's first end-to-end 5G network for improving the guest experience.

Increasing cost pressure in manufacturing will create demand for high network availability. It will support the use of augmented remote service assistance through DIS. It also can provide real-time and historical data for predictive analysis of operations.

Frost & Sullivan already saw many regional mobile operators transitioning from DAS to DIS. Hong Kong's HKT also implemented DIS to reduce CapEx while sharing 5G-ready solutions. Turkcell in Turkey leveraged on DIS for the shorter construction time. Sichuan Mobile in China deployed DIS in office buildings, shopping malls, and hospitals to improve indoor app coverage.

“Conventional economics dictate that the supply side needs to be optimized to address changes on the demand side. There is no doubt that indoor use cases will become a key driver of 5G networks, and correspondingly users will make increasing demands on their mobile operator when it comes to the indoor environment. The focus needs to shift to transforming indoors for DIS to enable 5G and on specific key verticals for the next wave of growth to happen. 5G is here, it is time for a transformation of the indoor environment, especially in Malaysia,” Quah said.