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Written by Prabhakar Atla
on 01 Oct 2020

From connected cars and remote surgery to automated factory floors, the 5G use cases have truly captured the human imagination. It is not surprising then that there is a massive amount of anticipation, curiosity, and hype about 5G and what it can do for us. And rightly so. With ultra-high-speed and extremely low latency, 5G promises to truly transform the way we live and work.

Even so, the migration from 4G to 5G is not just about adding another radio. For Communications Service Providers (CSPs), it calls for a different mindset altogether. From providing only basic connectivity, they will need to build a robust partner ecosystem to provide relevant use cases and effectively monetize the technology.

Even as the 5G deployments gather pace, there are several myths and challenges associated with the technology. We recently invited John Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer, GSMA Ltd., and Dez Blanchfield, Founder and Chief Data Scientist, Sociaall, Inc,. to discuss and share their views on how 5G will change our lives:

What is 5G and where are we?

5G technology enables high-speed broadband and extremely low latency of less than one millisecond. This combination enables several new and pathbreaking use cases like Industry 4.0, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), among several others.

It brings down delays and enhances reliability, enabling mission-critical tasks such as remote surgery, self-driving cars, and improved public safety infrastructure. It offers everything at lightning speed, making it possible to download an entire movie in seconds. The 5G technology opens up vast opportunities, and we are, in fact, limited only by our imagination. This WEF blog gives an idea of what our lives are going to look like in the 5G era.

There have been about 75 commercial launches of 5G, mainly in the geographies of Europe, Asia (South Korea and China), and Americas region. As of now, there are 175 million 5G users in the world. Most of the 5G subscribers are concentrated in China, America, and Europe.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on the 5G deployments in the world?

Well, definitely, there has been an impact because of geopolitical issues. The supply chains have been adversely impacted because of lockdown in several geographies. This has affected the supply of chipsets and devices.

Even so, in the long run, the COVID-19 pandemic will provide an excellent stimulus to 5G technology. More and more people are now using communications networks for their professional and personal work. This has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and the digitalization of enterprises. Growing dependence on virtual platforms will act as a catalyst for faster deployment of 5G.

This is backed by telecom research firm Analysys Mason. “The 5G CAPEX will decline slightly in 2020, and we now believe that this will be 7% less than our pre-COVID-19 forecast. 5G CAPEX will start to bounce back in 4Q 2020 and into 2021, and it will be 9.7% greater than our previous forecast for 2021 as a result.”

What are the major challenges associated with 5G?

Organizations are struggling to define how to leverage the power of 5G. It is an entirely new standard that comes with so many different capabilities that the companies are not sure how it can help them.

The organizations that treat 5G as a cheaper and faster connectivity standard will miss the bus and will not be able to use it for their growth. On the other hand, companies that ask the relevant questions about how technology is different and how it can be leveraged to improve their productivity and processes will create new use cases. Cyient can play a key role in educating the firms on the pathbreaking capabilities and possibilities of 5G.

It will also change our relationship and equation with the service providers. Not too long back, the carriers were offering just basic connectivity, but now their role will be much more pervasive. 5G will positively impact almost every aspect of our lives.

The Monetization Challenge

Despite several pathbreaking capabilities of 5G technology, the technology is fundamentally different from the previous Gs that there have been some questions regarding the monetization aspect.

As more and more telecoms continue to roll out 5G, there are opportunities for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to develop new use cases and applications that take advantage of 5G’s ultra-high-speed, low latency, and always-on mobile connectivity.

In the initial phase, 5G use cases are centered around enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).

The enterprise segment is likely to be the key revenue generator for CSPs in the 5G era. According to GSMA, 69% of CSPs believe that enterprise revenue will be the most critical source of 5G growth. Apart from faster throughput and low latency, 5G allows better traffic capacity, maximized data volumes, network slicing, and enhanced cloud-billing capabilities, opening new opportunities in B2B solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) applications for the enterprise space.

How can CSPs grab the enterprise space?

Several of the 5G enterprise use cases demand collaboration with partners. CSPs will need to build a partner ecosystem for effective monetization of the 5G use cases. Finding the right partners will be critical to the CSPs to close capabilities gaps and offer relevant solutions for different business verticals.

Automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, financial services, and utilities are some of the business verticals that offer growth opportunities in the 5G era.

Is 5G harmful to our health?

There are several myths about how radio waves used to transmit 5G causes Coronavirus or weaken our immune system. There is no basis for such theories. The recent Oregon State study says that the 5G radiation is “predominantly benign” and is not harmful.

How are 5G networks going to be different from previous networks?

The 5G networks are more software-centric, which makes them flexible, scalable, and programmable. The principles of virtualization, network slicing, and disaggregation of the software and hardware components of the networks will be vital to building a robust 5G network.

5G uses a higher spectrum frequency when compared with previous technology enabling better speeds and lower latency. It also uses a millimetre wave spectrum, allowing service providers to connect more devices in the same geographic area. Essentially this means that 5G is a more efficient technology and allows the telecoms to provide high-speed connectivity to a more significant number of people in the same area when compared with previous Gs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way we work and live. Several of these changes are likely to continue even after the travel and social distancing restrictions are eased. High-speed broadband is increasingly becoming crucial to carry out day-to-day tasks. The 5G technology is helping the telecoms address several of these challenges and will power the future digital world.

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