Vodafone says 5G networks and services will not only transform the fortunes of its customers but redefine the nature of operator itself.

Although 5G networks will allow operators to offer enhanced communications to consumers and reduce operating costs, the real value is believed to be in enterprise services.

Unlike previous generations of mobile connectivity, the ultrafast speeds, superior capacity and ultra-low latency of 5G means mission-critical applications can be powered by cellular technology for the first time. 5G will improve reliability, availability and reduce delays.

Operators are counting on these capabilities to provide new opportunities to compensate for falling traditional revenues like voice. Private 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and cloud services are but three examples of this.

Speaking at 5G World, Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty said the shift from being solely a provider of connectivity services was already well underway.

“We’re going to expand from being a network service provider to a company that is also a software and IT business,” he said. “Because as we continue to virtualise and move to cloud-based technologies – think of OpenRAN and Software Defined Networking – we’re going to need more software development and engineering skills, not just networking skills.”

Petty reiterated the oft-touted belief that 5G networks have the potential to transform entire economies and redistribute the benefits more equally across society. He added that Vodafone is cooperating not only with other operators and the wider ecosystem but also with industrial and public sector partners.

Specifically, he cited recent partnerships at Ford’s electric vehicle facility and the constriction of the UK’s first private 5G network for oil and gas firm Centrica as examples of these relationships.

“We’re no longer a telecoms company selling a service to an end customer, we’re working with a whole range of different providers. Our flourishing Internet of Things business has really stood us in good stead in this regard. We are becoming integrators and developers of applications, not just runners of networks.”

Vodafone launched its 5G service last year, becoming the second of the UK’s major operators to do so.