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5G expectations high, despite underwhelming adoption rates

A new study from IEEE found 5G remains one of the most anticipated technologies for 2023. Top expectations for 5G include automation, satellite services, sustainability and more.

As digital transformation remains a high priority for most organizations, the technological landscape has shifted toward innovations like augmented reality, virtual reality, IoT and the metaverse. According to IEEE, 5G is one key technology expected to enable these innovations in the future.

IEEE recently conducted a study that surveyed 350 global IT professionals, such as CTOs, CIOs and IT directors. In its October 2022 "Impact of Tech in 2023" report, the organization found that a large number of professionals, almost 48%, believe 5G will be one of the most important areas of technology in 2023. Respondents said they believe 5G will play a key role in various industry sectors while 6G development expands.

Future 5G expectations

Survey respondents reported on the industry sectors they believe technology will influence the most in 2023, with 40% of respondents ranking telecommunications in the top spot. Expectations for 5G are high because of its advanced capabilities. For example, an overwhelming 97% of respondents said they believe 5G will influence vehicle connectivity and automation. Respondents also reported the belief that 5G will play a part in enabling remote learning, telehealth and sustainability.

5G hopes in 2023, despite struggles in 2022

While much of the industry has high hopes for 5G, some experts believe it might not be able to deliver its most anticipated capabilities in 2023. According to a November 2022 research study from S&P Global, the telecom service industry faced financial challenges in 2022 that could delay some of the biggest prospects for 5G.

Like many sectors in 2022, the telecom service industry struggled with inflation. 5G providers faced additional struggles regarding high competition from other industries, like mobile virtual network operators and private fiber network operators. 5G adoption numbers were also smaller than expected. With these setbacks in mind, S&P Global predicted the B2B sector will be the biggest area for monetary growth for 5G providers in 2023.

S&P Global's report also stated that, as the technology continues to develop, new use cases and benefits for 5G will emerge, such as private networking support, network infrastructure cloudification and fixed wireless access (FWA). The FWA market has increased exponentially, and it could present the best opportunity for broadband connectivity growth in 2023. For example, FWA subscribers in the U.S. increased from 2 million to 4 million between June 2021 and June 2022, the report said.

5G-enabled satellite communications

Satellite communications will be another hopeful area for 5G in 2023. Approximately 95% of respondents told IEEE satellite communications will be important because of their ability to enable ubiquitous connectivity in any area. Experts expect satellite communications to improve connectivity in rural areas in 2023.

Although most satellite communications deployments are still in the early stages, mobile network operators (MNOs) and technology companies in the U.S. have started to release or have announced their plans to release low Earth orbit services. The next 5G New Radio network update will include a nonterrestrial network specification, which will support 5G satellite devices.

Beyond 5G in 2023

Although the industry has many expectations for 5G -- and in spite of the disappointing 5G adoption rates -- MNOs are already looking ahead at 6G. While 5G continues to mature and roll out, 6G developments will continue to progress in the next year.

6G isn't likely to mature until the next decade. But, when it does, it will expand on 5G's capabilities, such as increased speeds, security, reliability and scalability. According to IEEE, network architects should, ideally, design 6G networks with societal and economic considerations in mind. 6G networks should support sustainability -- such as ultralow-power consumption -- use Open radio access network technology to reduce operational costs, deliver connectivity to rural and underprivileged or remote areas, and support other initiatives that promote a greener society.

Satellite communications could also become more prevalent in the 6G era because the technology might be more optimal for satellite technology. A February 2022 report from 6GWorld, in partnership with InterDigital and ABI Research, stated 6G networks will include nonterrestrial network systems within the initial network deployment.

Almost 90% of respondents told IEEE they believe 6G will continue to evolve in 2023, but 6G standardization will take at least another five years. 5G must fully develop before 6G can release, and until then, enterprises could take advantage of new, potential use cases for 5G in 2023.

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