In short: Access to the fifth generation of mobile networks may end up being sold using a wide variety of business models that will partially replace traditional monthly bills, some AT&T executives believe. While speaking at this year's MWC Americas trade show, AT&T's consumer wireless and video business chief David Christopher said the second-largest network operator in the United States is still in the process of developing the monetization plans for its next-generation mobile services. Whatever business models AT&T ends up coming with, they will have to be pairable with those already in use for its 4G LTE service, especially in the early days of the new technology that will see consumers frequently switching between both standards, as suggested by the firm's Chief Technology Officer Andre Fuetsch.
Background: AT&T is still on track to deploy an experimental 5G network in the United States by the end of the year, with the company often reiterating it'll be the only wireless player to deliver a truly mobile 5G service in the country in 2018. While Verizon is also launching a similar network in October, its early 5G focus is placed on a fixed wireless access service which is essentially a broadband alternative. AT&T's New York-based rival will offer its seminal service on a traditional monthly billing plan but has previously acknowledged that the new communications standard will also accelerate the evolution of wireless business models. T-Mobile and Sprint are yet to talk specific 5G monetization, presumably because their concrete plans for the technology remain undisclosed, save for the fact that both are planning to start early deployment in 2019, regardless of whether their merger approval is greenlit.
Impact: Coming up with alternative business models for 5G use cases will be a crucial factor determining the success of the technology's early adoption as traditional billing may not be a viable option in the beginning, especially for price-conscious consumers. In the long run, 5G is expected to unlock unprecedented revenues