Technological Forecasting & Social Change

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Towards 5G: Scenario-based assessment of the future supply and demand for
mobile telecommunications infrastructure
Edward Oughtona,⁎, Zoraida Friasb, Tom Russellc, Douglas Sickerd, David D. Cleevelye
Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Information Processing and Telecommunications Center, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
Raspberry Pi Foundation, Cambridge, UK

 A R T I C L E I N F O
Mobile telecommunication
Decision support
Cost modelling
Strategic management

Moving from 4G LTE to 5G is an archetypal example of technological change. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)
who fail to adapt will likely lose market share. Hitherto, qualitative frameworks have been put forward to aid
with business model adaptation for MNOs facing on the one hand increasing traffic growth, while on the other
declining revenues. In this analysis, we provide a complementary scenario-based assessment of 5G infrastructure
strategies in relation to mobile traffic growth. Developing and applying an open-source modelling framework,
we quantify the uncertainty associated with future demand and supply for a hypothetical MNO, using Britain as a
case study example. We find that over 90% of baseline data growth between 2016 and 2030 is driven by
technological change, rather than demographics. To meet this demand, spectrum strategies require the least
amount of capital expenditure and can meet baseline growth until approximately 2025, after which new
spectrum bands will be required. Alternatively, small cell deployments provide significant capacity but at
considerable cost, and hence are likely only in the densest locations, unless MNOs can boost revenues by capturing
value from the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Cities or other technological developments dependent on
digital connectivity

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