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Pileri, "5G is a chance for telecoms to compete on equal footing with Otts"

18 July 2019

"However, we need pro-competitive rules, starting with the adjustment of electromagnetic thresholds," said the Chief Executive Officer of Exprivia|Italtel

5G is not an evolutionary transformation of networks, it is a revolution. And Italy has what it takes to become a leader. Stefano Pileri, CEO of Exprivia|Italtel, the new Italian ICT group resulting from the integration between the two companies, has no doubts about it.

Pileri, why are you talking about a revolution?
That's because 5G is not a simple technological evolution that improves network performance like it was for 3G or 4G, but it's a "platform" designed to enable high value-added services that can be grouped into three broad categories: HD videos, applications that require low latency and IoT data collection services. Edge computing, based on the distributed cloud, allows data to be processed more quickly and efficiently, an aspect which is extremely important for applications that require real-time response times. Slicing, on the other hand, allows networks to dynamically reconfigure themselves based on the needs of the specific service or application they carry, thanks to the use of Network Function Virtualization (NVF) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) paradigms. This is a technology that agrees to overcome the concept of net neutrality, where this could hinder necessary services.

Can you give us an example?
Let's think about telemedicine. In performing a surgical operation at a distance it will be essential to ensure that throughout the whole network on which the information travels, priority is given to moving images with very high definition and that very low latency is guaranteed, since it's necessary to move objects by millimeters. In a dedicated network slice, all the components involved coordinate to give the same support to mission-critical situations. This change, in terms of understanding both infrastructures and services, can represent a great opportunity for telecoms to gain ground to OTT.

Telecoms are in trouble, their Arpu and profitability going down. On top of that, there's the fact that they have disbursed over 6 billion for the 5G frequencies in Italy but also, more recently, in Germany. Are there any chances of recovery for this sector?
The very fact that 5G is a platform that enables services will allow companies to finally abandon their service model based on voice-SMS-data, which has led to a race to the bottom, to return to compete on high value-added services for the end customer. In this sense, they will be able to count on a reasonable payback also as regards the economic investment made for the spectrum.

Beyond the recovery of the competitiveness of telecoms, 5G will be able to create economic value for the entire national economic system. How do you judge Italy's "moves"?
Italy acted in time and, well realizing the need to give priority to the development of services and not only to network innovation, has launched tests that are giving rise to important use cases which will also be able to direct the strategies of the industry.

Are there any obstacles to the development of 5G?
More than the disbursement for the frequencies, which, as mentioned, can be recovered on the services front, the biggest obstacle to the development of the new mobile networks and the recovery of competitiveness of the telecoms are the rules concerning electromagnetic emissions. In Europe the maximum power density is 10 watts per square meter, in Italy, it is 0.1 watts per square meter. This means that our limits are a hundred times more stringent, which penalizes companies. The limits must be adapted to the European ones to make the industry grow.

Earlier you mentioned the need for TLC companies to compete on equal terms with Ott. What would be, in your opinion, the measures to be taken to realign the competition?
It is clear that this asymmetry with the big players, which are mainly American, is not sustainable. There are two issues to be addressed: the first is purely regulatory and concerns how data is processed. How come some people use the data of their users to do business without informing them? In this case, Europe has put in place a regulation—the GDPR—which also binds the US companies that operate here. This is a step forward towards the reconstruction of healthy competition.

The second question?
It is about competencies. In Italy—I revealed this in the last Desi as well—there are not enough investments being made in e-skills. The government seems to be receptive to this issue, but the time has come to create a system among schools, businesses, and universities, to board a train that, of course, won't be waiting for us.

How is Exprivia | Italtel placed in the developmental scenario outlined by 5G?
We support telecoms by providing a MEC (Multiaccess edge computing) platform that follows the logic of the distributed cloud and edge computing for the automation in the configuration and management of network slicing, i.e. the design of networks dedicated to particular services. When designing 5G networks, we support Open Fiber in the deployment of fiber (FTTH - Fiber to the Home and FWA - Fixed Wireless Access) in the C and D clusters, or the areas of market failure. Finally, there are the application suites dedicated to Industry 4.0, telemedicine, Smart City and monitoring of critical infrastructures such as viaducts, ports, pipelines. In other words, a 360-degree journey.

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