LIVE FROM 6G GLOBAL SUMMIT, LONDON: BT Group director of network strategy and spectrum Mark Henry lamented the race to launch 5G and questioned the investment case for 6G during a session where the Republic of Ireland’s regulator accused vendors of overpromising on new tech.

In a panel session, Henry branded non-standalone 5G a “mistake” which had effectively made the arrival of full, standalone variant “five years late”.

“That’s a bad bargain and we should not do that again”.

He did, though, add non-standalone 5G had been a success nonetheless.

“The business case for 5G is it’s the most efficient way to deliver data capacity,” he said. “It has delivered on that promise”. Though the expert noted the investment case for 6G was “much more of a challenge than previous generations”.

Citing an expectation of slowing data growth rates even with new applications, Henry stated there was “no desire” for the cost of installing new physical infrastructure and a potential issue with adoption of another new technology.

“What will hurt the business case is getting millions of users into the new system. That used to happen relatively quickly, but now devices are held on to people by four years and that will be longer over time”.

On a more positive note, Henry pointed to a potential argument for 6G if it were able to improve spectral efficiency along with potential sustainability benefits.

Later in the panel, ComReg Ireland chair Robert Mourik slammed what he perceives as misleading vendor promotion of new network technologies, urging the industry to not repeat this with 6G.

“I had hoped some of the lessons of previous generations had been learned,” he said. “There is a huge gap always in what the technology actually does and what it was promoted to deliver”.

“We may have a good business case for 5G because it delivers data cheaper, but that was not how 5G was sold,” Mourik added. “I can remember vendors coming to us, what they do is first invent the technology then they get some economic consultants to come along and say how much value there is in this technology. That’s why nations have to invest in it.”

He noted bodies like the European Commission then set deployment targets based on these expectations.

“I think if you look at the future, you need to be realistic about what it can deliver,” he concluded.

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