Regulatory Roundup: Regulators Are Making Moves to Drive Industrial 5G, but Deeper Cooperation with Industry Partners Is Needed

M. Rogers

Summary Bullets:

  • In the month of March 2022, telecoms regulators around the world have been implementing initiatives and programs to encourage enterprise adoption of 5G services.
  • Despite initiatives from governments and operators to drive use of 5G by industry, adoption is still low and increased collaboration is necessary.

Regulatory Support for Industrial 5G Development

Across the globe, regulators are taking various steps to encourage non-telecoms industry to participate in the development of a 5G ecosystem.  The promise of 5G goes beyond enhanced connectivity and download speeds for consumers to being a force for economic uplift within the enterprise sector as well.  To this end, regulators are encouraging 5G development through policies such as temporary spectrum licenses, enhancing the interoperability capabilities of private 5G networks, or developing 5G testbeds accessible for businesses.  These policies are generally done in concert with moves from private industry to support take-up and trialing of 5G services by enterprise.  This brief post reviews and analyzes some of the recent moves in the month of March 2022 from regulators trying to encourage industrial 5G development.

Small Steps – France and Germany

In France, the Electronic Communications, Postal, and Print Media Distribution Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) has launched a new initiative to encourage the use of 5G services by manufacturing and other industries that allows businesses to apply for temporary spectrum licenses in the 3.8 – 4.0GHz band.  Temporary spectrum licensing was also used at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe to encourage the rollout of 5G networks by the operators.  The strategy should give confidence to industries using 5G services, as one of the most common barriers to adoption among enterprises is unfamiliarity with the technology and its ability to deliver impacts related to business outcomes in its deployment.  In Germany, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has published rules enabling operators of local private mobile networks to be assigned international mobile subscriber identities (IMSIs) and other network codes to help identify individual terminals within private 5G campus networks.  The ability to assign IMSIs to private network IoT devices can enable integration with cross-border IT systems as well as with public 5G systems.

India – A Unique and Proactive Approach

In India, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is working with industry players and carriers to develop a 5G testbed to support the development of 5G applications in the country, contributing Rs 224 crore (approximately AUD 39 million) towards this end.  The DoT states it wants access to the testbed to be affordable to encourage use by SMEs. The announcement was made during a panel at Mobile World Congress 2022.

The DoT’s move is unique among regulators in that it is targeting the use of 5G by SMEs, while most countries are focusing on larger enterprises.  According to the Central Statistics of the Government of India, micro and small-to-medium enterprises (MSMEs) contribute over 30% to India’s overall GDP.  Encouraging SMEs to test the viability of 5G services to boost their production risk-free can help towards the development of economically viable solutions between SMEs and carriers.  This is part of the wider ‘Indigenous 5G Testbed Project’ from the DoT that sees SMEs working alongside telcos to develop solutions related to ultra-low latency, (ULL), enhanced mobile broadband  (eMBB), and new narrowband IoT opportunities (NB-IoT).  Of the three updates this month, this should be the most impactful in driving market awareness and accelerating the enterprise 5G ecosystem. Currently, many 5G solutions are cost-intensive and, even with testbeds for SMEs, may require additional financial assistance from the telcos.

Conclusion

Telecom regulators and government bodies are taking a very active role in promoting the use of 5G services by industry.  While this is a positive factor towards the further evolution of the 5G economy, it also indicates that industry is not naturally adopting 5G services.  India has still not launched public 5G yet, and the regulators and operators themselves continue to launch initiatives around 5G testbeds, trial networks, and discounted services to drive adoption, but not every initiative is successful.  Cooperation and coordination on these efforts could increase their efficiency going forward.  Beyond reaching out to the operators, regulators should consider working with large hyperscale companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Alibaba, as these companies are developing edge computing solutions made to integrate into telecom networks.  Industrial technology solutions typically include many made-for-purpose elements, and the big public cloud companies are investing in addressing vertical-specific needs.  There are real tangible business benefits to industrial 5G, but an ecosystem must be developed first.

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