With almost 40 years of IT reporting experience under my — sadly expanded — belt I’ve covered a number of profound developments and countless others of less import, but the eventual emergence of 5G is expected to CHANGE EVERYTHING. Yes, 5G is just a bigger, faster pipeline, but to paraphrase POTUS, it’s going to be huuuuuge: speeds of 10 to 100 gigabits per second (1,000 times faster than the current US 4G average); latency of less than a millisecond (compared to 4G’s 40ms to 60ms); and support for a million connected devices per square kilometer [that’s 5/8th of a square mile for the metrically challenged].
5G use cases include: Internet of Things (IoT); extreme video and gaming applications; explosive data density usage; public safety; Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) sunset; and context-aware services. User-driven requirements include: battery life; per-user data rate and latency; robustness and resiliency; mobility; seamless user experience; and context-aware network. And from the infrastructure perspective, network-driven requirements include: scalability; network capacity; cost efficiency; automated system management & configuration; network flexibility; energy efficiency; coverage; security; diverse spectrum operation; and, unified system framework.
However it is very early in the hype cycle, with final standards 12-18 months away, and products and services expected to trickle out over the next couple of years. The market should become relevant by 2021-22, and there will be 1 billion 5G connections by 2025.
So what does that mean to IT and CXOs today? “This is going to be a transformative change even though a couple of years away from mainstream adoption,” said Varun Chhabra, unstructured data expert at Dell EMC. He told IT Trends & Analysis it’s going to be a “gamechanger”. It will enable enterprises and businesses to provide their customers with “a completely different way to engage with their brands.”
While still a work in progress, 5G needs to be: a “chameleon” technology that can adapt to differing demands of wireless services — whether to support high bandwidth, low latency, bursty traffic, ultra-reliable services, or a combination of these capabilities, according to a recent report from the Telecommunications Industry Association. The TIA survey found that operators are uncertain how 5G might prove to be transformative, but while ‘history suggests that while it may underachieve relative to expectations in the short term, it will overachieve in the long term.’
As with any significant technology transition, there are billions of dollars being spent to either lead the change, or at least minimize the threat of being roadkill on the faster, broader information highway. Some proof points include:
-5G commercial services will launch in 2020 and there will be 24 million 5G subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2021 for mobile and fixed broadband services;
-the total number of subscriptions for 5G technology is expected to reach 89 million by 2022;
-the 5G network infrastructure market will grow at a CAGR of nearly 70%, eventually accounting for $28 billion in annual spending by the end of 2025;
-in 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output, and the global 5G value chain will generate $3.5 trillion in output
-the 5G value chain will invest an average of $200 billion annually to continually expand and strengthen the 5G technology base within networks and business application infrastructure;
-Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T are working together “to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on the expected 5G New Radio (NR) specifications”, with the goal to accelerate the move of the mobile ecosystem to a 5G network, with the proper infrastructure and specifications in place; and,
–AT&T is shelling out $1.6 billion to acquire Straight Path Communications and its portfolio of 5G millimeter wave wireless spectrum licenses.
The opportunities for Dell EMC — as well as other IT vendors and service providers — is equally huge, said Chhabra, who cited virtual reality (VR) and the IoT as two of the more important use cases. There will be massive amounts of data that will need to be communicated, massaged and stored, and the company offers a portfolio of products and services to facilitate all of these requirements.
As has become the industry norm, 5G will not be a rip-and-replace solution that triggers the end of wired technologies, he said. “For one, 5G depends upon wired backbone. Second, while 5G gets faster and faster, wired is making huge leaps too.”
DISCLAIMER: I have shares of a number of companies mentioned in this article.