In this piece, Paul Rhodes, OpenRAN and 5G Principal Consultant at World Wide Technology, explores how operators need to adapt to make the most of 5G.

Over the next 15 years, it is estimated that 5G will grow global GDP by 10.8%. According to Qualcomm it will be the "unified connectivity fabric connecting people to everything." It has the potential to unlock new technologies across every sector, from AR/VR-enabled healthcare, Intelligent Transport Systems and connected agriculture to real-time, remote controlled, smart factories and cities.

That 5G will bring wider cultural change to society is commonly accepted. However, this evolution needs to be matched by an internal paradigm shift within the telcos themselves – they must look to adopt a 'software mindset'. This means leaving their comfort zones behind and addressing the cultural changes required to deliver to the standard their customers will expect in the 5G-era. These customers will increasingly be enterprises rather than individuals, with diverse and complex expectations. To achieve success, internal alignment and coordination of people, processes and technology will be critical.

Building a team of teams

Ongoing success for service providers will come down to fully embracing a new architecture model. This means assessing and scaling up or down in response to customer demand – moving away from large but periodic updates to a process of continual iteration. Agility must now be baked into a network's DNA.

Service providers' ability to run open, software-based services will rely on embracing a digital mindset and working processes. Traditionally networks have operated to an engineering model; honing, polishing and perfecting solutions before they launch. The 5G-era will require networks to distribute solutions faster to customers, continuously evolving them in real-time once they are in-field.

Hiring a broad blend of engineers, technologists, architects, big data specialists, network security professionals and product experts will be crucial to making the jump. Meanwhile, existing staff should be nurtured and upskilled. Managing the pressure that will come from retraining and recruitment should be alleviated by external support as initial gaps in skills with be inevitable. Fostering a diverse partner ecosystem – a 'team of teams' – will be invaluable.

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