While watching a sci-fi movie, have you ever wondered what it would be like if the glorious futuristic city on the screen was actually real?
This year at Mobile World Congress (MWC) it felt like we need to put our thinking caps back on to prepare ourselves for the new reality and a new world of the 5G technology.
The world’s largest mobile electronics trade show, MWC, this year looked less a place to gawk at the new handsets by various tech companies rather it presented the picture similar to a cult initiation where 5G was the religion and everyone else was a devout follower.
Evolution doesn’t wait for anyone, as many parts of the world still doesn’t have access to 4G LTE technology, the telecom and other tech companies are jumping at the opportunity to introduce the next segment in the technological revolution whose applications doesn’t just stick to mobile phones, but can revolve around a complete lifestyle of a person.
This year at MWC every major product relayed the basic unspoken theme, a connected world. Everywhere you looked, you couldn’t escape the companies talking about the transformative power of 5G, booths attracting people with futuristic products and industry representatives preaching about the glorious days ahead under the reign of 5G technology.
To better understand the excitement around the 5G, think about the time when smartphones didn’t exist and now fast forward to today, realize a difference? It is just the same with 5G technology where today for us is a smartphone free era, but after a few years, it will be integrated not just in gadgets, but in our overall lives.
The tech companies know that the key to their survival is always to bring something new to the table and they certainly didn’t disappoint us this time. The tests for the new next-generation service already started last year and here’s a quick round off of all things 5G at MWC 2017:
We all anticipated the launch of a tablet or two by Samsung on the mega event, but it certainly surprised many of us as it announced its pre-commercial 5G Network, where we can expect a 5G radio and a 5G home router in the near future. Though the company’s 5G products are currently in the testing phase, we are not sure as to how early Samsung will kick things off.
Cisco, a well-renowned name in high-technology services and products, announced its partnership with Verizon, an American communications company to bring 5G’s innovative technology to the enterprise market. The various services in the pilot phase include; a cloud-based, virtualized, cloud-based, 5G packet core that uses Cisco’s Ultra Service Platform.
LG and Qualcomm
The two companies came together at MWC to announce their joint effort to bring the 5G technology into automobiles. LG and Qualcomm through their coordinated work would facilitate the testing and adoption of 5G and Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) communications into vehicles.
LG is currently developing advanced automotive connectivity solutions based on Qualcomm’s connected car platform, where the trials could be expected in the first half of 2018.
Ericsson and Qualcomm
At MWC this year Ericsson launched its 5G products and services that are coming to market in 2017 and also announced teaming up with Qualcomm to conduct 5G New Radio trials.
The two in partnership with various telecom companies including Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo’s mobile networks will conduct the trials in the first half of 2018, whereas they plan to conduct 5G trials over Telstra Australia network in the second half of 2017.
Nokia and Spirent
Nokia and Spirent Communications, a telecommunications testing provider, announced a successful deployment of the first 5G Lab as a service for Nokia’s Oulu-based network infrastructure testing labs which will enable automation of 5G testing. It will also help Nokia to accelerate the development of virtual network functions and physical infrastructure for 5G technology.
At MWC, the company also unveiled 5G First, an end-to-end solution that can allow telecom operators to address the huge demands of connected people and industries.
It comprises of radio access network (RAN) including Nokia AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antennas, packet core, and mobile transport solutions as well as a full-service offer using Intel® architecture and the Intel® 5G modem and would be available for initial deployments starting in 2017.
Intel and Nokia
Intel may have backed out of its smartphone chip craziness but is still going strong when it comes to 5G technology. Following Qualcomm, Intel revealed its 5G modem chip earlier this year and is viewing the home internet as its earliest potential application.
The company in partnership with Nokia is opening two 5G solutions labs in the US and Finland, to test and accelerate the commercial readiness of the new 5G wireless technology.
ZTE Gigabit Phone
Before you get all amped up like us let me make this clear that this is just a concept phone. The demonstration of the gigabit phone was given through phone sized display with working speed test app that is using a connection based carrier aggression i.e. the bundling together of 4G signals in order to increase the bandwidth. (So not an actual phone and not an actual 5G technology either, but it sure did feel good).
Now I’ll admit that it’s a very tiring list to read but looking at what these companies are trying to achieve, it would be foolish to dismiss the new wave of 5G technology that is opening up the world of possibilities.
The 5G technology right now is in a preliminary phase where nothing is set or done but 2017 will be remembered as the year the telecommunications industry stopped talking about the next generation service but have actually started acting out on their pledges of research to make 5G a reality. In other words, no the revolution is not at hand or in very near future but the distant future (3-4 years) looks good.
The industry right now lacks the infrastructure for 5G and still needs to work out tons of technical issues to overcome the future roadblocks. In the ongoing process of technical developments, some technologies will be used in the 5G era while many will be replaced with something better along the way.
Earlier this March, 3GPP signed off on 5G work plan for the first 5G New Radio (NR) specification that top mobile operators and network vendors came out in favor of. The international body crafting the 5G standard has approved the accelerated roadmap that could ultimately witness large-scale trial deployments in 2019 instead of 2020.
The 5G platform is not just about the speed of mobile data but it sketches a digital transformation in a networked society and thus, creating a complete ecosystem. The evolution of technology will not just affect the telecom companies and their users but would also enable new uses in various other fields including:
Internet of Things (IoT)
According to analysts, the major impact of 5G technology would be seen in the proliferation of the Internet of Things or IoT as we like to call it, which is the interconnection of various computing and physical devices that can collect, transmit and exchange data amongst each other. Surely in future, the world would see billions of connected devices and 5G can guarantee the lower latency and reliability of many services.
The fifth generation wireless communication will surely change the industry leading to mass-market automation with smart and efficient robots having the maximum mobility that can eventually change the rules of the game, as the machines could themselves initiate and complete an entire process whether it is in a workshop or inside someone’s home.
New Business Models and Revenue Streams
To stay afloat in the changing dynamics of the industry, the businesses would need to develop new models and revenue streams, thus evolving the business practices and policies.
Smart and Connected Homes
5G won’t only make our homes connected but would also make them smarter. We have already seen the integration of AI into various software and hardware that have enabled us to speak to our house. Its applications could be seen through Amazon’s Alexa or the AI assistant JARVIS created by the Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.
The future of fifth generation technology will enable us to effectively utilize our time using the latest sensors where the machine learns your living pattern to give you a customized luxury experience every day and the multi-gigabit broadband, broader in-home coverage and trusted connections will ultimately make it possible to deliver new personalized home experiences.
Communication between Vehicles
The concept of connected cars is not really alien to us all as for quite some time we have seen working prototypes of vehicles communicating with each other and exchanging information like the distance between the two cars to avoid the collision, to keep track of the driver’s vital health signs, etc.
Also, 5G can bring about the era autonomous vehicles on the roads whereas the connected cars can help transmit real-life data to enable a smart traffic system on the roads. Not just limited to cars, it would not be wrong to say that unmanned drones in the sky would also be a reality soon.
Well, if you combine everything said above, you’ve got yourself a functioning smart city where everything is connected. The right application of AI and 5G technology can create sensors adding intelligence to the city’s infrastructure and thus can create a communicative city where everything talks, including devices, gadgets, etc.
So curious about how the future cities will look like? Think about all the cool futuristic movies that you have seen so far and imagine them being real, except for Terminator of course because being ruled by machines, Not Cool.
When can we witness the 5G Technology in action?
According to Samsung’s vice president of networks strategy, Alok Shah, 2019 is a realistic time period to see the expanded use of 5G. GSMA predicts that by 2019/20 we can see various devices supporting the fifth generation technology where according to Mats Granyard, Director general GSMA around 1 billion users will have 5G connections by 2025.
It would be quite alright to be skeptical of these numbers as 4G technology introduced in 2003/04 reached 1 billion users last year where currently 34% of the global population use 4G LTE where only 23% of the mobile connections go over 4G speed. It took us more than a decade to reach the 1 billion mark on 4G so maybe the technological revolution is not as close as we are all being told.
Investment in the 5G Technology
The 5G technology sure does sound cool and hip but the estimated investment into 5G technology will run into trillions of dollars in the next decade.
Delivering the latest in telecom infrastructure is both expensive and tricky where development in 5G can, on the one hand, accelerate development of digital services but would require a very large sum of investments from various sectors of the industry.
This relation between the fifth generation technology and a large amount of investment was quite accurately explained by Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri in his keynote address at the MWC, where he said: “Many of you are wondering, ‘Why do we need 5G? Is it worth the billions that will be spent on it?’ Yes.”
Though he was careful not to build unrealistic expectations, he then added: “It will not happen overnight. We believe that most carriers will want an evolutionary process that maximizes their current investment.”
According to Qualcomm, by 2035 5G enabled industries could produce up to $1.23 trillion in goods and services while at the same time 5G value chain can create /generate up to $3.5 trillion and 22 million jobs. Meaning, the future rewards do add up with the current expenses on the development of new technology.
Future Challenges of 5G
The whole concept of having a futuristic smart city and living our science fiction fantasy does sound amazing but sadly in the realistic world, we have to look at the situation holistically, and it seems like it could face some of the following problems in future, whose solutions we have to figure out before diving eyes closed into the 5G ocean:
- The telecom and technology companies have to figure out how to actually use the bandwidth effectively to avoid any future embarrassments
- The companies need to simultaneously create the devices that can support 5G technology alongside the development of the fifth generation service
- Special consideration should be given to the human workforce as smart cities would also require the evolution of skills needed by labors, so we need a strategy as to when robots and automation does replace some human tasks, we don’t end up in another industrial revolution crises
- The standards of 5G have not been seen or experienced by any telecommunication company yet which can be quite challenging, but this could also be seen as an advantage as customers are not so sure right now about what they want or expect, giving companies more room to experiment with their ideas