According to a Google search: “5G will support billions of connections” and “5G will have a tremendous effect on economy” and “5G solves problems we haven’t yet encountered”. In isolation, it almost sounds like 5G is a wizard that will solve all the problems
of this world and perhaps even issues beyond our Earth. I’m not that optimistic, but after several years and many theoretical discussions on use cases for 5G we are getting to the stage where companies are monetizing on it. 5G in conjunction with other transformative
technologies could improve the lives of billions.
The 5G ecosystem includes various actors:
- Vendors / system integrators: Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Cisco, Mavenir, Samsung, and many more
- Infrastructure / service providers: Verizon, AT&T, BT, Vodafone, KT, Orange, and many more
- Device manufacturers: manufacturers of smart phones, watches, utility meters, VR equipment, tracking devices, etc
- Users / consumers: people and things that will receive the service
It is worth mentioning that there are a B2B, B2C and B2B2C opportunities.
If you have a 5G compatible device and are in an area with 5G coverage, you will see the huge uplift in speeds between 4G and 5G. That’s one of the benefits of the new network. 5G service providers can sell wireless broadband connections to households. This
is critical for areas where digging trenches for cable is not permitted and areas where average speeds are still low. At a sports venue, 5G subscribers can use their device to watch replays from different cameras get real-time access to game statistics and
post high definition updates to social networks. Moving forward, and including mixed reality competences, viewers will be able to identify players on the pitch and analyse their movements.
5G will also change the way factories operate. Again, not in isolation, it greatly increases the automation of the industrial processes, supports supply chain optimization and provides predictive analytics for factory maintenance. Every sensor generates
data that can be analysed and leveraged to inform business decisions. This will be critical for manufacturing lines and industries that assemble various types of items. Manufacturers will benefit from the real-time knowledge of their stock and can reduce the
cost of overhead when needed. In the future, robots will take over the ownership of the entire assembly process. For the industrial environment, 5G will increase visibility and control over all operations.
Similarly, 5G will augment other sensor and camera-based processes such as drone inspections, public infrastructure monitoring, smart grid automation and L3 cars.
But that’s just the beginning.
One of the greatest beneficiaries of low latency and high-speed networks is the Healthcare and Social Care industry. People frequently write about leveraging AI to determine how patient’s symptoms will react to treatments. Through 5G, doctors will acquire
a new tool to diagnose illnesses faster and often more accurately. Using an aggregated view of data such as family history, patient’s gens, origins, age and many others, the technology will help to inform the patients of the likelihood of acquiring various
diseases. On the downside, this information can also be shared with insurance companies and some of us may have to pay premiums to stay insured. Even more exciting is the ability of 5G networks to support remote workers. I’m not referring to office jobs as
these are already well equipped, but for professions such as industrial machinery operators for instance in mines or while building infrastructure, plumbing and even for surgeons. It’s still hard to imagine but a low latency and high definition network can
make us all surgeons if we are ever in a situation where we need to save someone’s life. A hologram or a live stream with a certified practitioner will instruct us on how to perform the operation.
5G standard mentions edge computing as its critical part. Why is it so important? There are already around 30bn connected personal and IoT devices around the world, and that number is growing exponentially. Current 4G networks cannot support high density
demand, and the service has a considerably greater latency which is prohibited for some applications. With 5G, the situation is about to change and – additionally – containerisation or even full virtual machines situated at the edge of network will remove
the costly and time consuming need to move all data to a data centre. Once the system is built, many expensive processes and software licences can be moved to the edge subsequently. For instance – thinking again about Healthcare – there is a potential to move
expensive medical software to the edge.
Education is another industry that will benefit from low latency and high-speed networks. VR / AR / MR classes will offer its participants the feel of being a part of a real meeting and augment the video experience offered today via collaboration platforms.
The same principle applies to any professional and social meetings. There are many occasions where people can benefit with the same technology, for instance parents could use holograms at school assemblies (which are too often held at busiest office times)
or a company’s board of directors can extend the actual meeting since the commute time is not an issue. This also reduces our carbon footprint.
Finance is an example of an industry that could easily be considered as conservative in terms of technology adoption. But, with low latency, information delay will no longer impact the price of goods and assets. In conjunction with predictive analytics this
will be a powerful tool for investors. For those interested in gambling, a similar scenario is predicted.
The automotive industry, on the other hand, is considered to be an early adopter of new technologies. Factory automation and supply chain optimisation aside, the race to commercially available self-driving cars is on. Some of today’s cars already use cognitive
learning for ADAS – advanced driver assistance system, e.g. lane change, parking support – and infotainment, e.g. voice control of media. Cars categorised as L4 and L5 however will aim to detect and avoid other cars, people and objects. Without getting into
too much detail on the cameras and sensors needed to perform such operation, any data collected by these needs to be analysed in the car – as opposed to a data centre – to mitigate the risk of delay and maybe even a collision. A car becomes the edge and connects
to everything and everyone around it and aggregates the information with the data gathered by its own sensors and cameras. That connection is called Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X). Since cars are usually moving objects and people tend to be less predictable,
the decision made by a local computer must be extremely fast and adapt to constantly changing information. 5G and other ultra-low latency networks are the means to accommodate the exchange between connected things and the car. Sort of modified but similar
approach is going to be deployed for autonomous planes and vessels although 5G may not be the most robust network to cover these as planes and vessels often are over or on the sea where terrestrial infrastructure doesn’t reach.
For Governments, access to 5G infrastructure will support its critical communication solutions and consequently deliver a faster response to issues related to health and the safety of citizens; for instance, enabling them to swiftly respond to collisions
and to reroute first responders on busy roads. This and many of examples listed above will benefit further with the deployment of private networks, and 5G offers the ability to slice and prioritize its parts.
What comes next?
The examples listed above and all other use cases that are being considered or will come up in the future will depend on benefits offered by a low latency and high-speed networks. 5G has a massive potential to help humans make the most of all other transformative
technologies, greatly improving our lives. It is an opportunity for new companies to step in and establish themselves, and for existing players to cement their position. It will be exciting to see who wins and how is it going to affect our way of doing things
today. We are not far from flying taxis, the ability to predict and prevent known illnesses and being able to analyse everything that was ever written in milliseconds. It’s exciting to wait for the next big ideas.