Australia’s next generation mobile network is presenting a unique opportunity for stakeholders to share the burden of infrastructure costs, according to Axicom CEO, Graeme Barclay.

While 5G is being touted as a transformative network because of its higher speeds, low latency and “network splicing” — an ability to create subnetworks for specific use cases, significant infrastructure investment is required, making ROI difficult to justify, at least early on.

“In an environment where the economics are challenged we think there’s a case for sharing more costs and we encourage wireless operators to at least investigate this,” Barclay told Which-50.

Where to share

He suggests there are several areas in which carriers can work together to accelerate the deployment of 5G. A “united view” is required in regards to regulation including addressing issues like access to the small cell sites used for 5G reception. But the collaborative approach can also be extended to supplying the infrastructure, according to Barclay.

“Shared cells, shared housing for electronics, shared base station hotels and shared fibre are good examples,” he explained.

Barclay says the shared approach can also offset the individual investment requirements for operators. And while partnering with competitors can be challenging, it is not unheard of in the telecommunications industry.

The Axicom chief explained that in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian mobile operators partnered to share infrastructure in regional areas, thereby extending coverage during the tournament and beyond. A capability that likely would not have been possible without the partnerships.

“The agreement between Claro and Vivo, for example, initially included 186 cell sites and was extended to 432 sites and today covers 5.6 million residents,” Barclay said.

“The benefits to both carriers were cost and speed of deployment.”

Similar examples of a shared model have also been found in China and Korea.

The Axicom model

Axicom, one of Australia’s leading provider of independently owned wireless infrastructure operates under a co-location model — what Barclay describes as the “definition [of] a shared infrastructure business model” and one that reduces the unit cost of access.

The model is particularly well suited for 5G, according to Barclay, and the shared network costs ultimately drive a better ROI for customers, freeing them to focus on experience, where many expect the 5G wars will be won.

“In a 5G world we will obviously continue to support shared infrastructure but we are looking at how else we can reduce duplication of infrastructure at sites,” Barclay said.

“We would clearly like to expand our business through the 5G era. We have capital to invest and intend to build new sites, small cells, create capacity on our existing sites, and will look for opportunities to build our capability and offering in other areas such as power, fibre, cabins, and BTS on a shared access and shared cost model.”​

About This Author

Joseph Brookes is a writer for the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit, of which Axicom is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.

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