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Written by Piyush Tandon
on 02 Feb 2018

Next-gen technology is already embedding itself into our lives. From 5G networks to smart houses, virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, the connected world is evolving at an accelerating rate¬. It is clear that the next five to ten years will see significant changes in the telecom landscape.

But what makes a technology "next-gen"? Simply put, anything that enables a major leap forward regarding bandwidth, quality, convenience, or other critical factors can be classified as emerging or next-gen. For instance, driverless cars will potentially make road travel far more comfortable and safer while 5G networks promise to deliver faster speeds with low latency.

Service providers in the telecom space are already getting ready to upgrade to next-gen technology to meet present, and future customer needs. To avoid being left behind, here are five things you need to know before the next wave hits us.

5G is about More than Speed

Europe’s first 5G antennas were switched on in Berlin in 2017, achieving over 2Gb speed on one device. Although it is yet to be standardized, 5G is expected to deliver far greater network speeds, supporting wireless capabilities such as 4K video streaming and VR.

But the benefits of 5G go well beyond faster data—the combination of high speeds and low latency means that a huge number of applications will become viable, from connected medical devices to smart power grids and autonomous driving. For telecom providers, it opens a vast landscape of opportunities.

Security will be Big Business

Today’s heightened security climate has enterprises adopting a range of proactive measures to prevent increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. IDC predicts the global market for security-related tools and services will grow from $73.7 billion in 2016 to $101.6 billion in 2020. Telecommunications currently has the second-fastest security investment growth after healthcare, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 9%.

With technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI evolving rapidly, providers will find themselves at the cutting edge in areas such as endpoint security, identity management and control, and unified threat management.

Wearables Are Becoming Mainstream

While they are still mostly boutique products, wearable technology such as smartwatches and fitness bands, are seeing massive growth. In the US, smart-watch penetration tripled in 2016 and accounted for 12% of the mobile consumer market.

Next-gen wearables are likely to become critical human-machine interfaces in the IoT mesh, interacting with everything from smart homes and vehicles to enterprise devices. This makes it crucial that service providers adapt their end customer offerings to accommodate them.

Next-Gen Content will be King

The telecom industry will begin to move away from a ‘connectivity first’ model. As basic network services become more commoditized and less profitable, service providers will need to move into areas with higher growth potential.

One of the areas identified is content delivery. With its ultra-high speeds and low latency, 5G has the potential to deliver any content to any device. Providers who want to ride the next content wave should consider upgrading their infrastructure with next-gen content delivery networks (CDN), and possibly even invest in content production.

The Future Looks Less Regulated

Net neutrality recently saw a demise in the US and is under discussion in Europe, where 17 of the region’s largest providers have stated they want less EU regulation in exchange for their investments in 5G technology. The 2016 5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe argues that, wherever possible, ‘long-term commercial agreements’ should be encouraged as an alternative to regulation. The challenge will be to leverage any such regulation changes into outcomes that benefit both service providers and end customers.

One of the many benefits of 5G is our futures are progressively becoming more connected. We have access to an entire world of information, not just at our fingertips, but on our wrists and in our ears. And with the introduction of these next-gen technologies, in particular, the wearable technology, there will be an increasing reliance on technology. The opportunities are endless, providing telecoms with areas for continuing R&D in search of new revenue streams.

But should we be concerned about this dependence on technology? What happens to the telecoms market if our access to the internet changes? Any connected device would become obsolete, bringing down with it an entire industry; just one more thing for telecoms to consider.

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