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Remote Surgery and Other New Use Cases Show Reason to Move to 5G: Ericsson Official

When people started discussing 5G 10 years ago, Mischa Dohler, Ericsson vice president-emerging technologies, said he was asked why anyone needs the next generation of wireless. Dohler, who spoke Thursday at a Competitive Carriers Association conference streamed from Palm Springs, California, said he has spent the last 10 years finding answers to that question.

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Dohler said he was involved in the world’s first 5G orchestral concert in Berlin, which connected performers in different cities. It was the first time “I understood the proposition of high bandwidth and low latency,” he said. Dohler said he started to work with hospitals and doctors who said one of their biggest problems is that they can’t get medical care for stroke victims quickly enough. He knew immediately 5G could help, with its low latency, high bandwidth, security and potential for network slicing.

People said five years ago that telesurgery would never work and no one would want to be the patient, Dohler said. This year, working with Ericsson, surgeons in Florida were able to operate on remote patients in Dubai and Shanghai, using 5G technology, he said. Dohler said he's working with the White House, FCC, NTIA, Food and Drug Administration and others to make remote surgery “a reality.” More widespread use of the technology won’t happen unless smaller carriers also get involved, he said. “We will have not only humans using your networks, but also machines more and more,” he said.

Dohler predicted growing use of augmented and virtual reality and AI “agents,” computer programs capable of performing tasks autonomously, which people will use as part of their daily lives. New technology will require networks that can handle increased traffic, he said. New data traffic patterns “will hit you at some point this decade,” he said. “You will need to do some bold moves.”

5G gives providers the ability to “adopt the network to your DNA -- exactly how you need it, how your region needs it, how your customers want it,” Dohler said. He said he was at the Mobile World Congress this year and for the first time that he could remember carrier booths on the show floor were “significantly different from one to another.” Providers “don’t all need to look the same,” he said.

Average subscribers use their mobile phone six hours a day, said Ankur Kapoor, T-Mobile senior vice president-network strategy and evolution. About 100,000 new apps for mobile phones are released every month, he said. Kapoor also said fixed wireless access has been the top use case so far in T-Mobile's experience, with more than 5 million customers using T-Mobile Home Internet, with average usage tripling over the past three years to 500 GBs per month, with more than half the usage from video.

U.S. 5G leadership depends on spectrum, Kapoor said. “We all know the spectrum pipeline is running a bit dry … especially in the mid-band,” he said. Kapoor said moving to a 5G stand-alone network is critical and means “you’re cutting the cord with all the older generation technologies.” The biggest benefits from 5G will come only with a stand-alone network, he said.

International roaming shouldn’t be a problem for small carriers, said Bob Chiodo, senior vice president at Syniverse, which works with smaller players on roaming agreements with more than 200 countries and territories. Carriers can also negotiate their own agreement but often need help, he said. “You work so hard on protecting and growing your brand within each of your regions, you can take international roaming off the table as a reason why there might be some churn,” Chiodo said.