If the COVID-19 pandemic has an upside, it is this: it has helped demonstrate the vast potential of the connected world. It has reiterated the critical role of new-age innovations in managing unprecedented change and enabling new ways of working.
There is a marked focus on intelligent tools and technologies that can automate processes, enable zero-touch provisioning, increase efficiency, and predict future results. In such a scenario, the role of communications networks has become even more crucial in supporting the rapid and intense deployment of technology.
The launch of 5G technology will further revolutionize communications networks and open up innovative opportunities for enterprises and communications service providers (CSPs). With greater bandwidth and ultra-fast download speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, 5G networks will enable a host of intelligent applications to work efficiently and cost-effectively.
By year-end, it is expected that about 15% of the world's population will have access to 5G networks. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), smart cities, and virtual reality (VR) are some of the technologies that will run faster on 5G.
Yet, some key questions need to be addressed: Are our networks ready to support new technologies? What are the components of intelligent infrastructure, its criticality? How can a world-class connectivity experience impact our social and professional ecosystems?
Several experts recently came together on a webcast to share their valuable insights into these issues. Titled “Designing Networks for Tomorrow”, the live panel discussion featured Wido van de Mast, Chief Executive Officer of VolkerWessels Telecom; Pat Coxen, MD - Strategy and Transformation of BT; and Prabhakar Atla, SVP and Head of Communications and Utilities at Cyient. The session was moderated by Dez Blanchfield, Chief Data Scientist, Founder, and CEO of Sociaall Inc. Here are a few highlights of the discussion.
Smarter strategy for intelligent networks
Globally, there has been a growing realization among CSPs of the need to modernize their network infrastructures to be flexible, agile, robust, reliable, and scalable. This is critical to support the technologies of the future. From an enterprise standpoint, the pandemic has taught CSPs the vital importance of network resilience to unlock innovations and deliver seamless consumer experiences.
There have been several announcements regarding planned investments in communications infrastructure and the network space in the last few months. For instance, in Europe, approximately US$1 trillion has been earmarked by the CSPs for upgrading and modernizing their networks to meet evolving demands and prepare them for upcoming technologies. Within the mobile infrastructure space, we see network density naturally emerging as a critical focus.
In the FTTx sector, investments worth US$250 billion are planned in Europe over the next three to five years. Network resilience is becoming a key area for enterprises worldwide. There is greater emphasis on autonomous operations. However, these developments are yet to translate into 5G network planning. Technology readiness planning is part of enterprise architecture. While there is acknowledgment, focus, and investments, the industry is yet to see it as a meaningful digital transformation strategy to execute.
CSPs however, would continue to focus on making their networks smart and resilient. This is no easy task, given that it takes constant effort to design networks such that access remains easy yet completely secure. Alongside, intelligent tools need to be equipped to ensure a quality user experience and the necessary bandwidth to drive diverse critical apps 24x7.
There are significant tangible and intangible benefits of intelligent networks and intelligent infrastructure. For instance, through real-time monitoring of various network tools and resources, CSPs can bring down their revenue leakage by up to 10% and also enhance employee safety.
The patterns of use and adoption of 5G may vary between countries. For instance, there is a significant acceleration of 5G in Australia and North America, whereas it is just beginning to roll out in Europe. Sectors like automotive and mining are the early adopters, and significant case studies are likely to come from these sectors.
In the near future, as the ecosystem of connected devices expands considerably, CSPs will need to develop smarter strategies to modernize their networks and ensure better consumer experience. The end customer experience will be critical to adopting 5G. The focused investments on RAN, backhaul, FTTx, and converged networks will continue to grow.
Across all sectors and enterprises, 5G will generate an unprecedented amount of data. This will further press the case for AI-driven analytics, machine learning, network slicing, and many such innovative technologies.
The networks of the future will make a critical difference to our lives. Whether it is distance healthcare, education, or knowledge transfer, things like connected vehicles and data-driven robotics and devices, as well as the ability to function remotely without any lag will forever change the way people live and work.
Therefore, CSPs must continue to grow and invest in modernizing their infrastructure to be completely ready for next-gen networks.