Technology such as 5G is capable of improving communication efficiency enormously. It is a determinant factor for future world prosperity and economic growth, the same way building better roads was throughout civilization history.
In this article, we will analyze what 5G technology is and the status of its global deployment. We will also describe how five selected industries are experiencing a profound transformation with its adoption. Furthermore, we will address the strong relationship between 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), which describes physical objects with sensors, processing ability, and software that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet.
In addition, we will present five main identified barriers to overcome for 5G mainstream adoption and actionable insights on how businesses can embrace this technology to deliver cost and productivity benefits.
First, What is 5G Exactly?
To begin, 5G is the fifth-generation mobile network. It was developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a collaborative organization that works on developing telecommunications standards. The first official 5G specifications were released by the 3GPP in June 2018. However, the rollout of 5G networks and the availability of 5G-compatible devices has varied by region and country. For example, 5G networks have been deployed in various countries worldwide, with some of the earliest deployments occurring in the United States, South Korea, and Europe in 2019.
This generation is the latest global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The main difference between this generation and previous iterations is that 5G enables a new kind of network designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, daily-use objects, and devices. As a result, 5G has the potential to transform how we work, play, and learn. Today, technology is already having a transformative impact on the economy, spurring economic growth by:
- Creating new industries, products, and business models. As 4G unlocked the app economy, 5G is poised to unlock higher bandwidth, real-time responses, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and mission-critical products and applications.
- Improving productivity and reducing costs, leading to increased economic output for the same inputs.
- Optimizing service quality increases consumer willingness to pay for goods and services.
This generational technology leap unlocks rapid data and insight-driven decision-making. According to Accenture research, it is estimated that 5G will add up to $1.5 trillion to US GDP and up to $1 trillion to the European GDP by 2025.
Growth results in industries such as healthcare, entertainment, and industrial productivity, to name a few, because this technology is meant to deliver higher speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, and increased availability. These capabilities mean higher performance and improved efficiency, empowering new user experiences, creating and connecting new industries, and setting the stage for innovations with real-time services.
How is 5G a Game Changer Technology?
The way 5G is impacting industries is profoundly revolutionary. 5G technology is used across three main connected service types: enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical communications, and the massive IoT.
- Enhanced mobile broadband
In addition to improving our smartphones, 5G mobile technology can usher in new immersive experiences, such as virtual and augmented reality, with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost-per-bit.
- Mission-critical communications
5G can enable new services that transform industries with ultra-reliable, available, low-latency links like remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.
- Massive IoT
5G is meant to seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power, and mobility—providing extremely lean and low-cost connectivity solutions. These improvements significantly impact the IoT, as 5G could enable the widespread adoption of IoT applications and devices.
One of the main advantages of 5G is its high speed, which allows for faster data transmission and better performance for applications and devices that require a lot of bandwidth. This is particularly useful for IoT applications, as many of these devices generate and transmit large amounts of data. For example, 5G could enable real-time video streaming in applications such as remote healthcare or surveillance and enable more advanced IoT devices requiring high bandwidth. On the other hand, as with any new technology, there is a potential for security risks and vulnerabilities to be exploited that must be considered.
In addition to its high speed, 5G also has low latency, which means that the delay between when a signal is sent and when it is received is minimal. This is particularly important for IoT applications that require real-time communication, such as autonomous vehicles or smart factories. Low latency can also improve the user experience for applications that require fast response times, such as augmented and virtual reality applications.
Considering these capabilities, 5G’s economic importance could be as revolutionary as electricity or the automobile, and it’s playing a massive role in transforming industries and economies.
Which Five Industries Will Benefit From 5G Implementation?
5G will be a critical component in improving the quality of patient care in the healthcare industry. Most healthcare providers are unaware of the extraordinary opportunities for implementation in healthcare, which can be enabled by 5G wireless networks.
5G offers rapid processing of high-quality and high-quantity medical data, richer mobile and home care, and greater reliability and lower latency in critical patient applications. Together, these improvements can fundamentally change disease screening, diagnosis, and monitoring, enable more accurate profiling of disease progression, and further refine and personalize treatments.
Although the new opportunities in healthcare are immense, medicine is often slow to change, as manifested by the paucity of new, innovative applications based upon this ecosystem. Thus, the need to avoid technology surprise – for example, robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery was delayed for years because the surgical community was either unaware or unaccepting of new technology.
By providing awareness of these opportunities and their advantages for patients, it will be possible to decrease the prolonged timeframe for acceptance and implementation for patients. Additionally, these developments could address some of the most urgent challenges health service providers and policymakers face, providing a universally inclusive, equitable, and sustainable healthcare service.
Entertainment and Streaming:
One of the main benefits of 5G is its ability to provide faster and more reliable internet speeds, essential for streaming high-quality video and audio content. This is particularly important for services like live streaming, which requires a stable and fast connection to deliver a seamless viewing experience.
In addition to providing faster speeds, 5G also has the potential to enable new forms of entertainment, such as virtual and augmented reality experiences. These technologies require high bandwidth and low latency, which 5G is well-suited to provide. This could open new opportunities for content creators to develop immersive and interactive experiences for their audiences.
5G technology is also changing how content is distributed and consumed. With the ability to connect several devices simultaneously, 5G networks can support more users streaming content simultaneously. This could shift towards more on-demand and individualized content consumption rather than the traditional scheduled broadcast model.
Furthermore, Ericsson Research Vision predicts we will be able to experience the Internet with all our senses by 2030 thanks to 5G, calling it the Internet of Senses. Experiences will probably begin with early adopters wearing augmented reality glasses, having a five-sense shopping experience, video calling services only transmitting verified human faces, and more. The real and digital world experiences will be seamlessly merged.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to integrating connected devices and sensors into industrial systems and processes to improve efficiency and productivity. 5G will offer higher flexibility, visibility, and security for configurable factories, mobile robots, and time-sensitive networks and lower maintenance costs.
Improved industrial productivity will result from 5G adoption because it will allow faster and more reliable communication between machines, enabling new applications such as remote control of industrial robots.
One of the main benefits of 5G in the context of the IIoT is its ability to support real-time data analysis and decision-making. With its high-speed and low-latency connectivity, 5G can enable the rapid transmission and processing of data from sensors and other connected devices. This could be used to optimize industrial processes in real-time, such as by adjusting production lines based on current demand or identifying and addressing equipment failures before they occur.
Another critical advantage of 5G in the IIoT is its ability to support many connected devices. This could enable the deployment of thousands of sensors and other connected devices in an industrial setting, enabling more comprehensive monitoring and control of industrial systems and processes.
In industrial applications, factory technicians and engineers can use AI and VR headsets to view a detailed overlay of equipment to identify components, streamline repair processes & instructions, and improve safety by providing a virtual environment for technicians to handle potentially hazardous parts.
Overall, the integration of 5G technology into the IIoT has the potential to significantly improve efficiency and productivity in industrial settings. By enabling real-time data analysis and decision-making and supporting many connected devices, 5G could drive the development of new, more advanced industrial systems and processes.
Services and Transportation:
A World Bank report titled “Envisioning 5G – Enabled Transport” lays out some use cases for the transport sector and how 5G is likely to enable important transformations in three major potential applications, such as the rise of connected autonomous vehicles, increasingly smart and efficient logistics and improved urban transportation with the implementation of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platforms. The sheer prowess of the 5G networks will transform and take the transportation industry to the next era.
The way it aims to achieve this new era is by improving the safety of transportation, especially with automated vehicles. The higher bandwidth and edge computing power will allow vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-network (V2N) services.
V2I is a communication model allowing vehicles to share information with the components that support a country’s highway system. Such components include overhead RFID readers and cameras, traffic lights, lane markers, streetlights, signage, and parking meters.
While the second, V2N, will facilitate a cooperative exchange of information between cars, trucks, buses, traffic lights, lane markings, and other forms of the road infrastructure network.
These advanced IoT applications will leverage transformational change where cities become smarter with interconnected transportation systems with users.
Regarding education, technology will make remote learning more interactive, particularly in rural areas, thus helping improve access to learning. A more interactive and connected classroom is possible through augmented reality (AR)-driven learning and greater access to resources to enable stronger interactions and democratize education.
Enabling remote education during the pandemic was key to helping people quickly adopt new technology and prepare for 5G’s potential.
Several other use cases related to 5G in the education sector are under testing or implemented in universities worldwide, providing enhanced learning experience, such as AI-based systems to analyze student engagement, classroom automated attendance systems, and automation of teachers’ administrative tasks.
What’s Holding Businesses Back?
The gap between enterprise awareness of 5G’s benefits and current levels of adoption suggests a degree of inhibition when it comes to implementation. Research conducted by Nokia suggests five principal barriers to 5G adoption for enterprises were identified:
- Cost: One barrier to adopting 5G for enterprises is implementing and maintaining the technology. The infrastructure required for 5G deployment, including antennas and other equipment, can be expensive. Ongoing costs, such as data plans and maintenance, may also be higher than those associated with previous generations of cellular technology.
- Limited availability: Another barrier to 5G adoption is the limited availability of the technology. While 5G is being rolled out in many countries, it is unavailable everywhere, and coverage may be patchy in some areas. This can make it difficult for enterprises to rely on 5G as a primary connectivity means.
- Education and understanding: Education is key – but so is proving the technology can deliver for the different possible use cases. Organizations should invest time in early trials and validation testing – allowing them to fully explore and get to grips with the technology ahead of rollout.
- Security: There are also concerns about the security of 5G networks, mainly as they may be used to support critical infrastructure and other sensitive applications. Ensuring the security of these networks will be necessary for enterprises considering the adoption of the technology.
- Regulation: Finally, the regulatory environment surrounding the deployment of 5G networks may also be a barrier to adoption for some enterprises. Governments and regulatory bodies may have different policies and requirements for deploying 5G networks, which can create uncertainty and potentially increase the costs and complexity of deployment.
How Can Businesses Better Prepare for 5G?
Regions worldwide will continue to adopt and embrace this technology at different rates. This means strategies and tactics that work in a specific region might work very differently in another because each region faces its challenges and have its strengths. For this section, we compare two regions with massive opportunities to transform themselves by continuing to invest in 5G.
These regions are West Africa and the Gulf states, the former with a growing young population thriving with an entrepreneurial spirit and an open political debate. At the same time, the latter remains full of natural resources and capital needed to do what needs to be done.
According to the African Union Development Agency, the AU Digital Transformation for Africa (2022-2030) reaffirms the concept of digitalizing Africa for Africa, aiming to transform African societies and economies by effectively deploying digital technologies and innovation. The African Union High Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) also supports 5G implementation across the region to fully exploit the internet’s total capacity and digitally advance Africa.
By 2050, Africa will be home to 2.5 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population. Nigeria will be massively the most populous country in Africa. These numbers present both a challenge and an opportunity, as many jobs will be needed. The continent needs goods and services it can export to the world at a competitive rate. Right now, these are primary goods: oil and gas in the case of Nigeria, minerals and gold in South Africa and Tanzania, and food crops in the Congo, for example.
This booming number of African people will need to find ways of pushing their economies upmarket into higher value-added goods and services, using 5G in innovative ways. It will be catch-up growth rather than frontier growth because of the current rate of adoption of 4G, showing that over half a billion people who are living in areas with a mobile broadband network in Sub–Saharan Africa are not using mobile internet despite substantial increases in mobile broadband coverage since 2014, (GSMA Mobile Internet Connectivity report 2021).
Affordability has improved substantially but remains a key barrier. If African consumers can’t afford 4G, they may be unable to afford 5G or the new devices needed to use 5G. The cost of rolling out 5G versus the potential return on investment for investors is a key consideration for 5G implementation. Policymakers should engage cross-industry players to co-create a value-generating ecosystem and align ecosystem stakeholders to realize the value potential of 5G. Players such as giant Huawei has been heavily investing and paving the way lately. Policymakers should collaborate with those who will create, use, and benefit from the technology throughout the process.
As seen initially, 5G technology is capable of creating new experiences, delivering cost and productivity benefits, unlocking new products, services, and revenue streams, and helping harness the value of the cloud. 5G networks also support sustainability thanks to the technological shift from legacy networks, driving significant energy demand reductions and reducing carbon emissions.
As a critical action to improve 5G technology acceptance across the African continent, APET encourages more stakeholder engagements to address and debunk 5G technology-related myths. As a result, APET is challenging all stakeholders in the private and public sectors and African policymakers to articulate how 5G technology can fundamentally transform how people live and work clearly. This can be accomplished by using real-life examples and demonstrations to demonstrate the significance of technology in our daily lives. Thus, stakeholder engagement campaigns emphasizing the performance benefits realized by early 5G technology rollouts in other countries will demonstrate the value of 5G technology for the rest of the African continent.
The Gulf states have a key challenge ahead. Their main challenge is relying less on oil and gas exports and instead following the path pioneered by Dubai to become trading and service centers. To achieve this transformation, telecommunication improvements are essential to diversify economies and reduce oil dependency. A consequence of this is the prevalence of government-sponsored digital initiatives promoting technological innovation.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait are setting the example in 5G implementation, pushing for 5G infrastructure development and helping score higher in the Gulf Cooperation Council region to achieve strong growth.
According to a report published by independent analytics company OpenSignal, the Saudi Arabian Kingdom recorded a 5G availability of 28.2 percent, just a few percentage points behind Bahrain and Kuwait, where availability is 34.9 and 33.6 percent, respectively.
In February 2022, Saudi Arabia’s operator Zain announced the rollout of the Kingdom’s first 5G standalone network as it aims to develop projects in vertical technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
Opportunities in these areas are vast because the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is expected to have 62 million 5G mobile subscribers by 2026, and they will account for nearly 73 percent of all mobile subscriptions in the region, according to a report released last year by the Swedish company Ericsson.
In a business environment infused with initiatives, service providers are incentivized to keep up with the latest technologies and meet the projected demand from tech-savvy consumers. This is bringing monetization opportunities for service providers regarding entertainment, lifestyle, tourism, education, and the workplace; thus, policymakers should acknowledge and leverage these opportunities for the population’s best interests.
What Needs to Happen Next?
Overall, 5G will continue demonstrating a significant impact on how we live and work. It will enable new businesses and services and improve healthcare, entertainment, industrial productivity, public transportation, and education.
However, it is worth noting that the deployment of 5G networks and the availability of 5G-compatible devices is a complex process involving multiple stakeholders, including telecommunications companies, device manufacturers, and government regulatory bodies. As such, the rollout of 5G and its impact on the IoT will likely vary by region and will continue to evolve since there is no single barrier to mainstream adoption.
Going forward, we need to see more proactive enterprises that dare to explore new business models and governments that provide the support that companies need.