What is the business case for 5G mmWave?

Millimeter Wave (mmWave) boosted networks are taking off globally, delivering multi-gigabit speeds, capacity and exceptionally mobile broadband speeds in suburban and rural communities, thanks to extended range software. Explore various deployment opportunities and the use cases that can be addressed in our paper.

As has been the case with every “G”, the key to maximizing an operator’s value has required finding a balance between creating demand and serving demand. It’s not enough to build a network with more capacity, speed, latency and features – customers need a value-adding reason to adopt these new capabilities. This has never been truer than with 5G, especially since legacy tariff plans often already offer all-you-can eat subscriptions, which makes “speeds and feeds” upselling to customers harder. Hence it is imperative 5G drives a renewed willingness to pay.

Bell Labs Consulting set about proving the growth potential for 5G mmWave. We’ve done so through an analysis of consumer and enterprise scenarios in six European markets – France, UK, Russia, Spain, Italy and Germany. We discuss the results of that analysis in detail in a new webinar, “The business imperatives of 5G mmWave,” which you can watch below.

Until now, 5G networks have been planned and commercially rolled out in sub-6 GHz spectrum, which makes sense given the insatiable consumer demand for broadband services. However, in specific scenarios, this eMBB technology layer requires complimentary technology to unlock the types of use cases that require massive uplink and downlink and low latency. This is where 5G mmWave comes in, which promises to deliver multiple-gigabit data rates to end users and can accommodate significantly more capacity and better quality of experience.

So, which scenarios generate such demand and why would customers pay more for them? The good news is there are many of these scenarios: airports, railway stations, stadiums, production facilities, distribution centers – anywhere with massive consumption and movement of data and with the need to operate and monitor in real-time.

There has been much discussion on sub-6 GHz versus 5G mmWave, largely due to the technical challenges like attenuation and short-range coverage that 5G mmWave must overcome. But the argument for or against a technology is the wrong argument. The key to realizing the potential for these technologies is to deploy them in concert and in such a way that telecom operators can serve the demands of end users while still being profitable and cost-effective.

Over the course of the Bell Labs Consulting study, we answered some critical questions about the business attractiveness of 5G mmWave and the technology’s unique value propositions. We found that value can be created when the technology is deployed surgically and positioned correctly:

  • 5G mmWave solutions should complement existing 5G sub-6 GHz networks across high-density locations such as transport hubs, outdoor and indoor shopping centers, office spaces, arenas, stadiums, and convention centers.
  • 5G mmWave deployments offer an attractive business case and, on average, a four-year payback period when deployed in hot zones at high-density locations. They also provide an internal rate of return between 20% and 30% after the fourth year.
  • The cost per gigabyte delivered can be reduced by up to 75% with 5G mmWave compared to sub-6 GHz solutions when serving the typical capacity requirements at these high-density locations.
  • 5G mmWave enables telecom operators to strategically select and scale the availability of 5G services at appropriate locations to serve high-capacity requirements cost-effectively.

Clearly the millimeter waves present many opportunities to create the value-add necessary for customers to pay for the technology. They complement existing 5G deployments and provide an increasingly vital layer to operators’ network-of-networks strategies in the future. 5G mmWave isn’t just an evolution of 5G technology; it’s a 5G business imperative.