Mobile World Live Publisher Justin Springham interviews BAI’s Group CEO Igor Leprince for its ‘Building the perfect 5G network’ themed week.

In this interview, Igor Leprince evaluates the emerging role of neutral host communications networks in enabling next generation connectivity solutions for mobile network operators (MNOs) in the new era of 5G.

Justin Springham (JS): Why is now a critical time for MNOs to invest in next-generation connectivity infrastructure?

Igor Leprince (IL): A lot has been said in the last few years about what 5G can deliver to society, industries and also consumers in terms of use cases, experience, reliability, performance and efficiency. Overall the main reason why MNOs should invest is because this is ultimately an opportunity to drive their revenue and capitalise on the demand from industry verticals, cities and governments to drive the economy. It is believed that the successful MNOs will drive significant revenue growth from the enterprise segment and increase customer experience and possibly also ARPU on the consumer side too.

JS: Why is the neutral host model a better fit for MNOs than traditional models when it comes to providing 5G to their customers?

IL: After arguing on why MNOs should invest in 5G, it is also clear that the investments are significant and the return on investment depends on how successful they are at harnessing revenue growth opportunities. We believe the neutral host (NH) model helps. At the end of the day this is not too different from the various network sharing initiatives that exist in several forms in most of the world and some of the specific areas that we, in BAI, specialize in.

First, the specific area of subway, transit or transport where you simply do not have the choice but to have one system for all operators. Second, the broader topic of dense urban environments and small cell deployment that faces the reality of needing streetscape assets and fibre availability which again goes towards a NH model. A similar type of model could fit very well in a rural area where sharing and NH is the only way to make it economically viable. Our role at BAI is to help MNOs to be more efficient operationally and financially to deal with 5G deployment through NH business models.

JS: BAI has a strong business providing mobile infrastructure in underground transit environments in New York, Toronto, Hong Kong. What are some of the biggest challenges of introducing 5G infrastructure across rapid transport networks?

IL: The challenges are clearly around project complexity, stakeholder management (especially in a broader context beyond underground), minimum interruption to customer service and health and safety specificities as you work through small, complex and confined spaces. These challenges are all about the engineering, design, installation, maintenance and project management skills that BAI has developed in the last 10 years in the biggest transport networks mentioned and we are very proud of this. And beyond the technical and operational aspects, it is also about making it work financially for these transit authorities which becomes even more relevant in the current context.

JS: What is the potential of 5G in transforming travel experiences for commuters and transit operators? What are some of the use cases for 5G?

IL: The potential is around creating efficiencies for operators and commuters, enhancing the service and providing a seamless and smarter travel experience, real time. The use cases we are deploying in BAI with our partners are focused on platform crowding conditions which is very important in the current COVID context and origin and destination patterns so service is customized for safety and wellbeing. We are also supporting use cases as diverse as driverless train applications, real time video surveillance, alarms for better asset management, and infotainment.

Watch the live interview