What can 5G really deliver?

There has been a tremendous amount of excitement around the arrival of 5G over the last several years. The hype is now finally giving way to progress as proof of concepts, field trials, buildouts and early deployments emerge. But despite the many recognized advantages of 5G, some mobile network operators are still looking for concrete evidence of ROI.

The reason for this is many mobile network operators are not yet prepared to offer 5G at scale. When operators launch a new service, the first phase typically involves building out and scaling up within their own networks. Only after the internal build up is done do they start exploring interoperability and interworking between networks.

While there has been a lot of interest around the rollout of 5G networks by major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, the fact remains that operators are very focused on their own networks. They haven’t even started to talk about how to make that available to other partners or asked how to support sharing across partners within the network.

So, what difference will 5G make?

A look at 5G

The adoption of 5G in its early stages is going to be critical to fully realize the vision of a mobile-first, connected workforce that has access to optimal bandwidth speeds at the mobile edge, which will help improve collaboration functionality such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

5G will enable an explosion of more advanced IoT use cases that will consume greater bandwidth and remote surveillance, and will increase interactions across different IoT endpoints leveraging AI and machine learning, especially in the realm of autonomous vehicles. These higher bandwidths use cases require a faster and more responsive network on-demand to realize their full potential.

In some cases, 5G will provide more flexibility in access to technology. Similarly, 5G will also leverage software-defined network capabilities to better manage underlying access for the particular use cases that organizations have.

5G in the automotive industry

Arguably, the most 5G-centric use case is autonomous driving. If you examine a car closely, you’ll find that most of a car’s operations are controlled by technology, not the driver. 5G is critical to ensure the vehicle can effectively make intelligent and secure decisions based on the vast amounts of data shared between the vehicle’s system components, other vehicles and roadway infrastructure elements.

A robust 5G mobile network will enable more decentralization, but for autonomous cars to really thrive, a completely seamless mobile experience is critical to keeping cars constantly connected. The challenge will be to design IT architecture that can be deployed globally while still allowing for localized technology to cater to different regions.

Coverage, reliability and scalability must be optimized, and seamless access to multiple mobile networks will require a unified management policy to ensure consistent standards. It’s important that operators, vehicle makers and other ecosystem players, such as transportation authorities, telematics control unit providers and fleet management companies, work together to ensure 5G capabilities are seamless, efficient and effective.

Patience is key when dealing with 5G

The key thing to remember when it comes to these use cases — and 5G in general — is that patience is a virtue. Ultimately, it’s going to take some time for 5G to reach a similar level of availability as 3G and 4G. It is vital that the mobile ecosystem appreciates the limitations associated with frequency allocation, network investment, regulatory restrictions and the availability of funds for investment.

The investment by mobile operators and providers isn’t a small one. In fact, it will likely amount to billions of dollars in new network equipment, licenses, deployment, time and collaboration.

There is no question that we are at the beginning of a new era of global connectivity, with speeds we’ve never seen before. If various parties, including the mobile operators, government and network equipment companies, work together to identify commercially viable and desirable customer solutions, 5G can fulfill the vast potential ascribed to it these past years.

But it’s important to keep things in perspective. We are at the very beginning, and there’s still a long way to go.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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