HPE is at MWC talking up its recent purchase of Athonet, and we caught up with Richard Band, Solution Lead Mobile Core & 5G, who told us when it comes to 5G, all the action is in the enterprise space.

On Friday HPE announced it had bought Italian private cellular network technology specialist Athonet – a move it says will put it ‘at the forefront’ of the private 5G market. Elaborating on the deal, Richard Band, Solution Lead Mobile Core & 5G told us at MWC: “We obviously bring the ability to scale up and industrialise which they don’t they don’t have. So that’s the key of the of the of the acquisition is to take something that is really good, really powerful, and just accelerate the heck out of it.”

HPE leaning into the private 5G market is indicative of how big tech (or the wider tech industry, however you want to phrase it) seems to be becoming increasingly intertwined with the telco sector. Band thinks this merging is inevitable.

“4G was all about consumer. And the majority of the value was captured outside of the telco industry. And 5G is all about enterprise. And the question, how much can the telco industry capture it. And so I’m absolutely convinced that the 5G technology is going to be transformative. And in that sense, tech big tech and telco will come together because 5G technology will become even more pervasive in our lives than it has been so far. The question is what is the role of the telco in this in this market, and some telcos are going very aggressive and realise that they need to go beyond horizontal capabilities, because the real value is generated when you combine the connectivity with other things.

“And enterprise needs to always combine it with other capabilities. And so, telco operators will definitely have a role there weather that’s just supplying the connectivity and have somebody else do it, or a more active role depends on the telecom operator, but it’s going to happen. The only question is what role will the different actors take in the end on this market, but it will happen.”

HPE approach to 5G is clearly very enterprise centric – but when asked if it thinks there are actually any tangible 5G consumer use cases we were told:

“I think the answer is not directly, no. I think that 5G for consumer today is mostly just perhaps a slightly faster internet, but you don’t really need it because you can already watch 4k on your mobile. Bigger data bundles…. but there’s just a way to entice you to take 5G. So I don’t think there’s been a lot of innovation for consumer.”

Another big question at the moment –one we are making a point of asking as many people as we can at this year’s MWC –  is who is making money out of 5G right now? On that Band told us:

“Well certainly the people who sold the RAN to the telco operators have been making money. But I think that’s the real struggle. I think it’s the reason why you’ve seen a slowdown of the standalone 5G deployment –  that the marketing side of the house hasn’t really pushed the technology side of the house to come up with these kinds of innovations. I think that there is a real concern. Again, the enterprise is the key to making money out of 5G.”

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