The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the global business landscape, forcing organizations to explore new operational models to ensure business continuity. According to a recent survey by TCS, the pandemic has led 90% of the organizations to maintain or increase their digital transformation budgets. This is true for all companies, big or small. The “work from home” trend, the heightened demand for delivery of applications, and the growing realization that digitalization builds resilience, underlining the need for faster, more reliable, more secure connectivity networks. This, in turn, makes the rapid adoption of 5G an even greater imperative.
A whole new level of intelligent connectivity
While the years gone by saw the rise of the Internet of Things, technology trends in the decade ahead will be shaped by the Intelligence of Things, where artificial intelligence (AI) will underscore many aspects of business and day-to-day life. The influence of technology in both these domains will be more pronounced than ever before and 5G will offer the platform on which they would ride. This era of “connected intelligence” will witness great strides in consumer experiences and the delivery of services for safety, health, education, commerce, and lifestyle.
As we start connecting “virtually” with the world around us, artificial intelligence will need to be extended to end-user devices, which is the wireless edge. For instance, while today’s cloud-centric virtual assistants offer limited privacy and few options for personalization, the combination of on-device intelligence, cloud computing, and 5G connectivity in the future will transform voice technology to create highly personal assistants that can be more responsive, proactive, and context-aware. They would at some stage also understand the emotions and react befittingly. This is because the on-device intelligence will continuously learn about the user and create a “digital version” of them that can act immediately and intuitively in different situations.
5G is the unified connectivity fabric that will make this possible, with its low latency, virtually unlimited capacity, and high quality of service. It is designed to support and expand the ecosystem of the Internet of Things in hitherto untapped ways. 5G is the framework for scaling both connectivity and intelligence in the dawning era of hyperconnectivity, where people will not only be connected to other people and information, but to everything around them.
Getting our existing networks future-ready
5G promises vast improvements in network performance and high-performance connectivity to both consumers and enterprises. It will allow service providers to differentiate their services and ensure the best utilization of the networks they have invested in. 5G is designed to make use of a wide array of spectrum frequencies to provide the capacity and capability envisioned for the next decade and beyond. To deliver on its promise, 5G needs more scalable and flexible network infrastructure than we have at present. The implementation of software virtualization in telecommunication networks – virtualized RAN (vRAN), offers interoperable interfaces to mobile operators and network equipment vendors.
Private networks and intelligent industrial operations
Private mobile networks, designed and deployed specifically for enterprise users, provide opportunities to optimize and redefine business processes in ways that are either impractical or impossible with wired or Wi-Fi networks. For industrial users, mobile networks that meet the coverage, performance, and security requirements of production-critical applications will be crucial as they transition to cyber-physical systems. 5G systems have been developed keeping in mind the needs of industrial users and their application performance requirements. 5G private networks significantly enhance data security and privacy, as they are isolated physically or virtually from public networks and use different hardware, virtual machines, or network-slices.
The adoption of 5G will be accelerated by the ongoing digital transformation of the manufacturing sector – a process that is picking up pace in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – as it will enhance indoor wireless broadband coverage. With the intelligent wireless edge, which can keep sensitive data inside a dedicated private network and address a wider range of industrial use cases, we will see growing interest by industrial organizations in employing AI for manufacturing success.
In the factories of the future, connected devices will sense their environments and interoperate with each other, allowing for decentralized decision-making. Such smart factories will have many sensors to monitor different aspects of the working environment. 5G will not only connect existing devices and systems more efficiently but also expand these “smart” capabilities to new devices and services. 5G can replace today’s wired industrial ethernet, enable more use cases for automation and robotics and make factories more dynamically reconfigurable. All this with higher security and dependability.
The next generation of day-to-day services and experiences
It is difficult to imagine a business or a service that 5G cannot enable or improve. 5G will enhance smartphone experiences by offering very high bandwidth and low-latency connections. The combination of on-device intelligence, cloud computing, and 5G connectivity can make smartphones more responsive, proactive, and context-aware of their user’s needs and environments. It can also make for much safer automobile driving and road safety. In the future, most new vehicles will have some degree of AI-powered autonomous capability. On-device intelligence, together with low-latency 5G networks, will improve driver performance and allow vehicles to respond immediately to current traffic conditions. Drivers could even be alerted to pedestrian movement and road hazards beyond the sightline.
Extended Reality (XR) experiences – which encompass virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality – will become more immersive and relevant in spheres such as gaming, entertainment, education, and healthcare. As virtual health consultations rise in post-pandemic times, telemedicine and telehealth facilities need to become more accessible, reliable, and responsive – the new normal for the industry. 5G adoption will both drive and grow with the virtual healthcare model, the benefits of which will extend even to the non-urban and remote regions of the country, where healthcare facilities are limited in number, skill, and scope. Reliable, anytime connectivity powered by 5G will enable healthcare professionals in these facilities to consult with doctors and specialists in other parts of the country for timely, accurate interventions, as and when required. Moreover, 5G will spawn innovation in healthcare solutions at the grassroots and regional levels, which will further improve health outcomes e.g. AI-based analytics and diagnostics help cases like early detection of cancer, saving costly treatment and lives
Technology with potential for truly global impact
These are but a few examples – a mere glimpse of the limitless possibilities that 5G will unlock. It is evident that 5G is one of those technologies that benefit entire economies and all sections of society. According to a recent report by IHS Markit and Omdia, it is estimated that the full (or near-full) economic benefits of 5G could be realized across the world by the year 2035. By then, industries ranging across from retail, education, transportation, entertainment, and everything in between could produce up to $13.2 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G mobile technology. The 5G mobile value chain alone could generate up to $3.6 trillion in revenue in 2035 and support up to 22.3 million jobs. The numbers signify the immense potential of 5G to strengthen the global economy and transform our lives by leveraging the power of connected intelligence. Yet, much beyond this, what 5G will bring is still to be discovered.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.