September 2018

"ePTC", the Perpetual Missing Use Case

September 2018




In March 2018, the UK Government announced plans for an 5G Urban Connected Communities project (UCC), which will see the development of a large-scale testbed in a UK city. The UCC project will:

1) design wireless infrastructure in a major city that delivers high quality connectivity and allow new 5G applications to be trialled in a number of sectors;

2) allow industry to test different deployment models for 5G infrastructure and help inform the development of policy and regulation to support 5G deployment;

3) support economic growth and improve the quality of life using 5G to meet people’s connectivity needs.

The objectives of UCC are well-founded and essential to facilitate the much needed focus on a phased and commerically viable 5G roll out plan.

Connecting people and closing the digital divide is a key policy objective for most governments in developed and developing countries and mobile is in the forefront of technologies to close the gap. Nonetheless, despite various initiatives to address ubiquitous connectivity in areas other than urban, and, in particular on major transportation routes and other non-urban populated areas, the implementation progress has been rather slow and in some cases non-existent.

The chart below shows the GSMA latest mobile connectivity figures across various regions which are somewhat unexpected considering the mobile market and technical developments over the past three decades. The figures do not consider the extent of “Infrastructure” and “Affordability” which we will touch on in this digest. The ITU also finds that around 85% and 15% of households in least developed countries and developed countries do not have access to internet; mobile is the technology of choice due to minimal fixed infrastructure.

Source: GSMA Intelligence

Mobile Connectivity Statistics

As I, like many others, was feeding my insatiable hunger to accumulate knowledge on every aspect of 5G through reading articles (not using the net!) in a train on my way to a major city in Europe, I received a call which took a good portion of an hour due to repeated dropped calls. An experience which would have been of no concern in the past. However, after nearly 30 years since the launch of 2G, we are becoming increasingly intolerant to accept no “bars – 3G/4G icons” on our mobile phones.

In general, connectivity is a major issue in many countries, in particular, in the developing countries primarily due to lack of “Infrastructure” and “Affordability”, as highlighted by the GSMA index score on the maps below. A closer examination reveals an unexpected fact that the more prevailing cause of lack of connectivity is the “Infrastructure” and not “Affordability”, as shown in the graph below.

Infrastructure Index Score - Source: GSMA Intelligence

Affordability Index Score - Source: GSMA Intelligence

Derived from GSMA Intelligence raw data

Will 5G Make a Difference in “Connecting People” Everywhere?

The telecom world is revolving around 5G and “The Race to 5G” seems to be just about taking a turn to the “Finish Line” with eMBB (ish) use case commercial deployment round the corner. This use case, for sure, is not the game-changing aspect of 5G, it is the “Automation” for which 5G, in principle, has been built for from the ground up. Also, as part 5G development and building on the LTE NB-IoT, the mMTC will make connectivity and long reach for the “Things” possible in the next decade.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that standards bodies and proprietary technologies have innovated immensely to connect “Things” wherever they are, there seem to be far and few in between technical/market/policy/funding/cross-sector collaborative initiatives to do the same for connecting “People”. From the technical perspective, the too familiar 5G use cases shape should perhaps be a pentagon rather than a triangle to include “ePTC” use case (enhanced People Type Communications).

Seeking ways and innovate solutions to make people connectivity possible everywhere should carry similar attention to those aimed at connecting things. 

Source: CASiTEL