Is 5G the transformative network technology that will revolutionise every industry it touches? We assess the current state of 5G development and ask whether the reality will match the hype
The mobile imperative
When the environment is awash with connections, many of which will carry highly sensitive information, security across those networks becomes paramount. The debacle around Huawei and the UK government appears to be moving forward with the company as a critical infrastructure partner; security remains a crucial component if 5G is to become widespread and ubiquitous.
“Cybersecurity is a prerequisite for universal, trustworthy, and equitable access to the benefits of information and communication technology,” said the International Telecommunication (ITU). “ITU supports the development of a 5G environment where we will all have access to highly reliable communications and where trusted information and communication technologies will be key to innovation in every industry sector.”
There is little doubt that as 5G rolls out, this will deliver new products and services. How network providers will monetize these new channels remain to be seen. Also, as the network providers are still smarting after a general failure to see increased revenues thanks to LTE, they are wary of the investment that would be needed to deliver some of the headline-grabbing services that have dominated the 5G debate.
According to GSMA Intelligence forecasts, there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections by 2025. By 2025, 14% of all connections globally will be on 5G, while 25% of connections in China and 45% of connections in Japan will be on 5G. 5G networks will cover 40% of the global population by 2025 (about 2.7 billion people) and 37% of the Asia Pacific population. Most of the 5G pioneers are planning their commercial launches for 2018/2019, including operators in South Korea, the US, the UAE and China.
ANSYS’ Sudhir Sharma concluded: “We’re starting to see some progress with 5G in the UK. Major mobile operators had set their sights on deploying 5G this year, with a full rollout coming in 2020, but we’ve seen little movement so far. In fact, it’s likely that this will begin once we’re well into 2020. However, considering the size of the launch, it’s not too bad that operators are only one year behind schedule. Although the UK is market is behind other markets such as China and the US, we’re still making good headway towards deploying this technology.”
The GSMA’s Michele Zarri also said: “We think that the critical development will be in virtualization and the ability to do network slicing because this allows mobile operators to generate multiple types of networks from the same infrastructure and support multiple types of businesses associated with them. For us, virtualization and the new architecture that is designed around it is the major revolutionary aspect of 5G, which is otherwise more evolutionary.”
Currently, the networks are taking a tentative step into 5G. Overnight transformations of the existing network infrastructure won’t become a reality. However, businesses are pushing the envelope of what they can achieve with 4G. To take the next step in consumer services, transport, healthcare, agriculture, retailing and manufacturing, needs a new kind of network. 5G looks set to deliver an ecosystem that could only be limited by the imaginations of the businesses using this new digital environment.