British telco giant BT expects to launch 5G standalone — or ‘true’ 5G — later this year

British telco giant BT expects to launch 5G standalone — or ‘true’ 5G — later this year
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British telco giant BT expects to launch 5G standalone — or ‘true’ 5G — later this year

British telecommunications giant BT is gearing up to introduce its inaugural standalone 5G network in 2024. Howard Watson, BT’s chief technology officer, shared insights into the company’s strategy during an interview at the Mobile World Congress tech trade show in Barcelona.

BT’s Vision for Standalone 5G

Howard Watson highlighted BT’s proactive approach towards establishing a standalone 5G network, often dubbed as “true” 5G, in the upcoming year. Unlike mere discussions by competitors, BT aims to implement a comprehensive ecosystem to support this initiative, emphasizing the importance of compatible devices.

Pioneering Technological Demonstrations

The collaboration between BT, Ericsson, and Qualcomm showcased the viability of network slicing, a pivotal aspect of standalone 5G. This innovative configuration enables the creation of distinct network segments within a unified physical infrastructure.

Understanding 5G Standalone

Watson elucidated the concept of 5G standalone, emphasizing its ability to allocate specific network resources tailored to diverse applications. By offering designated bandwidth and latency commitments, standalone 5G promises enhanced user experiences, particularly beneficial for latency-sensitive activities like online gaming.

Tailored Solutions for Diverse Needs

BT envisions a flexible approach to standalone 5G services, catering to varied consumer preferences and requirements. Watson proposed dynamic pricing models and customizable usage windows to accommodate specific demands, ensuring optimal utilization of network capabilities.

Looking Towards the Future

Milind Kulkarni, from InterDigital’s wireless labs, underscored standalone 5G as a significant milestone in the evolution towards “5G Advanced.” This ongoing technological progression aims to unlock new opportunities across vertical markets, further enhancing the capabilities of 5G networks.

Challenges and Opportunities

While the transition to 5G offers immense potential, network operators face challenges in articulating its value proposition to consumers. Despite incremental speed enhancements over 4G, widespread adoption of 5G remains hindered by connectivity gaps and consumer skepticism.

Evolving Ecosystem Requirements

The successful deployment of standalone 5G hinges on collaboration with smartphone manufacturers to integrate standalone capabilities into their devices. Watson highlighted the pivotal role of industry leaders like Apple and Samsung in driving this transition.

As BT prepares to launch its standalone 5G network, the industry anticipates a transformative shift in connectivity standards. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies and fostering strategic partnerships, BT aims to unlock the full potential of 5G, ushering in a new era of connectivity and innovation.

BT’s Consumer Business Transformation and Market Dynamics

In 2023, BT underwent a significant rebranding initiative, signaling a strategic shift towards enhancing its consumer services portfolio. This transformation aimed to address challenges in scaling services, an area where traditional telco firms have historically lagged behind digital behemoths like Meta, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

Revamped Consumer Services

BT, a prominent telecommunications entity in the UK, unveiled a comprehensive suite of services as part of its rebranding efforts. This strategic maneuver sought to bolster its competitiveness in the consumer market, leveraging its extensive fixed and wireless network infrastructure spanning the nation.

Market Dominance in Broadband and Mobile

Within the UK telecommunications landscape, BT’s consumer division commands a formidable presence, boasting approximately 30% market share in both broadband and mobile services. This market leadership underscores BT’s pivotal role in shaping the country’s connectivity landscape.

Catering to Enterprise Needs

In addition to its consumer-focused endeavors, BT operates a dedicated enterprise segment catering to the needs of larger business clientele. Through tailored solutions and innovative offerings, BT’s enterprise arm plays a crucial role in driving digital transformation across various industries.

Strategic Acquisition and Expansion

BT’s acquisition of the EE mobile network in 2016 for a staggering £12.5 billion marked a pivotal moment in its growth trajectory. This strategic move not only fortified BT’s position in the mobile market but also paved the way for synergistic collaborations and enhanced service offerings.

As BT continues to evolve its consumer business, the company remains committed to delivering unparalleled connectivity solutions and enriching customer experiences. By leveraging its robust network infrastructure, strategic acquisitions, and market insights, BT strives to maintain its status as a trailblazer in the telecommunications industry, driving innovation and shaping the future of connectivity in the UK and beyond.


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