by Isabelle Abdou
5G represents far more than next generation network speeds – it will dramatically stretch the fabric of connectivity all around us.
One of the most exciting new tech advancements of modern times is upon us. 5G promises to be up to 20 times faster than its predecessor 4G, and as a result a huge amount of services will be enabled through Internet of Things (IoT) such as augmented and virtual reality. Autonomous vehicles will also be facilitated through the network’s dramatically lower latency, having the ability to react to the environment at lightning speeds.
The vast array of new IoT sensors, all connected and enabled by the 5G-powered clouds, will be used to manage the connected cities of our future – smart cities. The multitude of devices interacting will generate an explosion of data, which will, in turn, be used for analytics to improve services as well as far better manage assets and resources. Data is the new oil – the coveted driving force behind modern business strategies and outcomes.
Nevertheless, the challenges and obstacles to 5G adoption remain significant:
Starting from scratch
The transition from 3G to 4G was straightforward. 5G, however, has completely changed from a silicon defined architecture to a software defined architecture, and it is necessary to have expertise on a wide variety of topics: the classic radio access networks, the optical networks and perhaps most difficult, access the powerful computing capacity needed.
Previously, telecom companies developed software that was running on very specific types of hardware, but now 5G architecture is fully virtualised. This has rendered decades of cable infrastructure obsolete…
Who will pay for it?
There is still understandable apprehension in the industry as to who will bear the brunt of the billions and billions needed to build-out 5G infrastructure. Service providers including telecom companies will need a foolproof strategy on how to monetise their huge investments, or face decades of exponential debt. The telecom companies don’t want to repeat the mistakes they made with 4G in which tech giants leveraged and made money from infrastructure they paid nothing for.
Telecom companies and application developers are currently embroiled in a deadlock as to who will take the plunge first. App developers are waiting for the 5G platform on which to work from, and the telecom companies are waiting for developed use cases to justify the build-out – both are waiting for advances from each other!
Once established, however, 5G will be less expensive to run due to its automated and virtualised nature. Service providers should look now to create 5G infrastructure suitable for the enterprise use cases, as this is how they will see greatest returns on their investment, through the creation of high-tech smart cities, as well as the endless improvements to operational efficiency across multiple industries.
Which country is winning?
Asian countries were early investors and are thus leading the way in the 5G race, in particular China, which according to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), will represent 40 per cent of global 5G connections by 2020. In Europe, smaller, wealthy countries such as Switzerland are winning; they have a huge competitive edge in the adoption of 5G as the main issues are related to operational cost and reach.
According to a recent Deloitte report, countries lagging behind in 5G deployment will face serious economic consequences which could take decades to overcome. They will need to invest significant time and resources before being able to reap the benefits of the services and products powered by the new network.
The future is bright
Cisco is currently testing 5G infrastructure that has the potential to impact industries not traditionally touched by the tech bubble. In rural locations the company is giving farmers access to 5G-connected cow collars with health-monitoring tags that transmit biometric data, helping to observe the herd from afar. 5G also has the potential to reach the countryside before fibre does, taking the pressure off internet service providers to lay extensive cable in remote areas.
In the manufacturing industry, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is already transforming operational performance by tackling both the challenge of connectivity within a factory and significantly cutting labour costs, which will explode upon the adoption of 5G. IIoT’s predictive analytics will also revolutionise the manual approach to maintaining machinery and production lines in a factory, saving valuable time.
So there you have it. 5G will first unlock all the trappings that come with high speed mobile internet such as self-aware smart homes, high-definition video streaming with zero lag, seamless conference calls across the world, as well as real-time gameplay and mobile virtual reality. However, in the future, 5G’s impact not just on industries, but on wider society with the creation of smart cities and prevalence of autonomous cars, will be hard to fathom.