The 5G evolution is gaining momentum. On the heels of a successful real-world test of near-gigabit speeds using 4G networks in Florida, Verizon is preparing to expand its testing to other sites around the country in the next few months. The tests will employ a technology called License Assisted Access that mixes licensed and unlicensed cell spectrums to increase wireless speed and capacity, a technique that forms the cornerstone of Verizon’s 5G plan. 5G broadcasting at speeds exponentially faster than current rates will debut at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and by 2020, the technology should reach maturation. By 2022, there will be over 89 million subscriptions for 5G technology, Markets and Markets projects.
As 5G services are deployed and launched, their impact on telecommunications should have a ripple effect on the Internet of Things, daily business operations and the global economy. Here’s a look at three ways 5G could transform the IoT and its associated business and economic infrastructure.
5G and the consumer Internet of Things
The most direct impact of 5G on the Internet of Things will be its acceleration of smartphone download and processing speeds thus opening a large field of consumer IoT applications. 5G speeds will be ten or more times faster than current speeds, capable of enabling a user to download an entire series of movies in a matter of seconds. To support this, smartphone component manufacturers are designing cellular modems and processors that will allow mobile devices to handle gigabit speeds and support unprecedented bandwidths. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G cellular modem will allow users to connect to the cloud more quickly and with greater flexibility.
5G networks will increase connection speeds between smartphones and other devices within the IoT. 5G speeds will transform smartphones into devices that are increasingly paired with virtual reality headsets, in order to experience real-time VR broadcasts, which consume too much bandwidth for 4G to manage. 5G will also make it possible for data-intensive applications such as connected cars to communicate with smart infrastructures and other vehicles on the road, paving the way for more efficient autonomous vehicles.
5G and Daily Business Operations
The ability of machines to communicate with each other at 5G speeds will have a dramatic effect on business operations. One company on the forefront of this revolution is General Electric, which has brought the IoT into manufacturing by developing smart factory technology. By implanting IoT sensors throughout factories, GE enables manufacturers to monitor variables and make fine adjustments that can affect performance. For instance, at a GE battery manufacturing plant, sensors collect data on factory humidity and pressure on battery components, so that if polymer part thickness varies from one day to the next, supervisors can make adjustments for optimal productivity. GE has been combining this capability with other technologies such as 3-D printing and robotics to make factories truly smart and to take full advantage of automation.
The results can translate into tremendous increases in efficiency and decreases in costs for businesses. MGI estimates that applying the IoT to manufacturing to optimize factory floor design could be worth as much as $50 billion annually. Applying IoT devices to monitor workplace safety could reduce injuries by as much as 10 to 25 percent, saving $225 billion globally each year by 2025.
5G and the Global Economy
By lowering the cost of data transmission, increasing production efficiency through machine-to-machine communication and making it easier for companies to scale up, 5G technology will have a massive impact on the global economy. The 5G global value chain will generate $3.5 trillion in output by 2035, greater than today’s entire mobile value chain, supporting 22 million jobs and spurring $200 billion in investment annually.
By enabling lightning-fast communication between smartphones and IoT consumer devices such as VR headsets or smart vehicles, 5G could transform consumer society. In the industrial space, 5G should efficiently and cost-effectively supports machine-to-machine communications between smart devices and industrial equipments like the ones in smart factories for example. Supporting the emergence of new applications and opportunities both in the consumer and industrial markets, 5G could strongly and positively impact the global economy.
As it stands now, 5G is expected to start rolling out globally in 2020, with Ovum’s figures suggesting there will be 24 million 5G subscribers by 2021. In a couple of years from now we will discover if 5G should pave the way for an evolution or for a revolution in the IoT world…