What is 5G?
Did you know that, on average, humans react to a visual stimulus at 1/4 of a second speed? Pretty good when you are driving in fast, bumper-to-bumper traffic, right? Now imagine if your car can react 250 times faster than you, simultaneously processing a multitude of incoming traffic information and responding within milliseconds! This incredible feat is the power of the breakthrough 5G communications technology.
The 5G or 5th generation mobile network can dramatically enhance the user experience by enabling billions of connected devices to collect and share data in real-time, delivering ultra-low latency, very reliable multi-Gbps peak data speeds, high availability, and increased network capacity, catering to a more extensive subscriber base.
5G is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks, designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices. The 5G network is the connectivity fabric that will fundamentally change the future and reshape business operations– a new way of working for most businesses, individuals, and carriers.
Many countries have already started riding the 5G wave, and some plan to allocate the 5G spectrum soon. By 2026, the 5G technology market may grow to almost 66 billion US dollars. In most countries that have already rolled out 5G, apart from the end customers using it, this supercharged cellular network has also shown many use cases for businesses and enterprises.
Role of 5G in the “new normal”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and enterprises grappled with a few aspects that have become "essentials" in the new normal. These are:
- Connectivity — keeping in touch with families and friends, with a stable connection to communicate for work, school, and medical emergencies.
- Community outreach and dissemination of vital information and advisories — The government agencies needed to reach out to the masses and arrest the spread of miscommunication. Big Data capabilities played a critical role in monitoring the trends and relaying the information directly to the affected.
Holed up in homes during the pandemic created an enormous need to connect for work, collaboration, and entertainment (streaming services, social media, and gaming), which led to a massive demand for bandwidth. This necessity provided the impetus to the telecommunication industry to fast-track their efforts to bring in the right solutions, notably the 5G connectivity.
Unlocking innovation with the power of 5G
Gazing into the crystal ball, we will find that the next big thing is the fully virtualized, automatic provisioning of custom data streams for specific applications. 5G represents the next stage for data capacity, localized computing, and bespoke services.
IoT and M2M communication increase the number of connected devices, generating data in gigabytes per second. Managing this requires a cloud-native core, and we will see the software-defined networks creating a mega-network akin to the IT networks in the real sense of the term.
Network slicing and virtualization will enable greater ease of connecting devices, applications, and enterprise platforms using APIs (application programming interface) and fully virtualized 5G networks, paving the way for newer business models and innovations. Imagine the empowerment of the consumer/enterprise and the operator to be able to configure their services based on the defined purpose with the automated connectivity allocation capability of the network.
Network slicing will be the most economical model to provide service differentiation. It will support devices that will use only a part of that functionality, enabling faster time-to-market with best-of-breed services at lower costs and improved network connectivity.
These next-gen technologies bring the importance of digital transformation to the surface, especially to the players in the manufacturing industry. As today’s machines promise rapid data generation and consumption, the need for agile delivery of network slices will become critical for multiple verticals of digital transformation. Delivering more intelligence to the edge can enable a real-time control loop for things like robotic process automation (RPA) and digital twins — this is where 5G will truly accelerate ROI. Applying 5G to power up tomorrow’s technologies
The application of 5G will accelerate the development of the following key technology areas:
- IoT – As 5G will be more than ten times faster than the current 4G networks, IoT devices will be able to communicate data much faster than before. The low network latency will enable seamless connectivity between the “Things.” 5G can amplify our current experience of IoT devices and ecosystems like smart homes and smart cars.
- Autonomous Vehicles – Accuracy plays an enormous role in autonomous vehicles, requiring the power to transfer massive amounts of data with simultaneous processing capabilities. 5G can be a literal lifesaver by providing the constant connectivity critical to preventing data loss and ensuring safety.
- AR/VR – There are many use cases for enterprises/industries regarding AR/VR, but the major hurdle has been not-so-good uninterrupted internet connectivity. Use cases like remote experts, real-time collaboration, training, or sales and marketing require high-speed connectivity and low latency to provide a real-time experience. The 5G ecosystem can undoubtedly make these a reality. Powered by 5G, gaming in the virtual world will be the epitome of gamer experience.
- Metaverse – Real-time interactions with a magnitude of people and objects will become an actuality by applying 5G solutions. It will also be an avenue for the telecom companies to monetize their investments in 5G in a big way.
- Fixed wireless – This has existed as a solution for remote areas where extending a wired network is expensive or complicated. 5G application will make this solution more attractive for the operators and consumers alike.
Key Operational Challenges
Although the pandemic provided the momentum to fast-track 5G, a global lockdown also delayed 5G rollout plans for many operators.
Implementing 5G requires more than just upgrading existing networks. As one should expect the new network infrastructure to support investments, forward-looking enterprises have started moving towards digital transformation, requiring much effort from mobile operators, equipment vendors, manufacturers, and digital service providers. However, how to monetize these investments remains a big question that companies still need to resolve.
The road ahead with 5G
5G technology, with its network slicing and virtualization capabilities, will open many use cases for its application, such as remote surgeries, autonomous drones, or robots to deliver lifesaving drugs and enable manufacturing units to operate during lockdowns.
With enormous potential, 5G is not just an enabler for improving your network connection. It opens up new opportunities to deliver ground breaking solutions that have the possibility of transforming our world.