More than half a billion fifth-generation (5G) mobile subscriptions, covering 15% of the world’s population, will be active by 2022, forecasts Swedish communications company Ericsson. Its June 2017 Mobility Report credits the industry’s approval of a new standardization schedule with accelerating 5G deployment throughout several consumer and enterprise sectors.
“Consumer adoption of virtual reality, augmented reality, smart homes, self-driving cars, drones, and other devices is set to rise with the activation of 5G standards and 5G-enabled devices,” says Ericsson. “IoT communications, high-performance mobile connectivity and cloud services are expected to become key driving forces behind business innovation,” the report continues, citing healthcare among other industries it sees benefitting from 5G adoption.
“5G will be truly revolutionary,” asserts The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in its March 2017 news publication, the institute. A feature on “The New Wireless Frontier” describes a recent IEEE 5G Initiative (http://5g.ieee.org) “to help industry, government and academia to work together and lay the foundation so that the opportunities envisioned for 5G can be realized.”
Alex Wyglinski, co-chair of an IEEE 5G working group, highlighted those opportunities for CIMS Innovation Management Report: “As the next-generation wireless network technology, 5G is expected to significantly increase data speeds, produce ultra-low latency times, support the connection of many more devices, and increase energy efficiency of network elements.
“The ‘killer feature’ or revolutionary change of 5G over past standards is how it is also going to support wireless connectivity of all devices, whether they are cellular devices or not, ” Wyglinski continued. “Specifically, 5G will enable wireless connectivity within the Internet of Things context. Furthermore, 5G is also a candidate technology for supporting vehicle-to-vehicle communications. In these instances, these are applications never even considered before with 4G, 3G, 2G.”
5G the Disruptor
With the 5G communication standard nearing ratification, the greater challenge “is understanding the disruptive nature of the technology,” writes Jason Bloomberg in his report from the recent European Conference on Networks and Communications in Oulu, Finland (forbes.com, June 14, 2017). “If you thought today’s digital technologies were disruptive, just wait until 5G takes hold,” adds Bloomberg, president of industry analyst firm Intellyx. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Skeptics Phone In
Even so, the telecom industry has its skeptics. For example, in commenting on the Ericsson report, Tata Communications’ chief operations office John Hayduk told a CNBC.com Singapore reporter, “The industry is making quite a bold assumption that consumers are going to take up 5G services the moment we achieve it…Without mass adoption of 5G for big apps, we won’t see mass adoption of 5G.”
Deloitte Consulting worries that “the success of 5G wireless will hinge on deep fiber,” as its“Perspectives” column headlined (www2.deloitte.com, 6/27/2017).
“5G relies heavily on fiber and will likely fall far short of its potential unless the United States significantly increases its deep fiber investments,” the column warned. Deloitte analysts estimate the U.S. needs to invest $130–$150 billion in fiber infrastructure over the next five to seven years.
Following the June 22 White House meeting with President Trump and other tech execs, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told CNBC that a $40-$50 billion investment will be needed to bring 5G to the United States.
Still, as our May/June 2017 Innovation Management Report noted (p. 16), panelists from several telecom and consumer companies enthused over 5G going into cars, broadcasting and other commercial applications by 2020.
Technical Challenges? Significant
IEEE’s Wyglinski elaborates on his earlier comment: “5G is becoming the core technology responsible for supporting the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Cyber Physical Systems, and every other application where reliable and seamless information exchange is critical. All sectors of today’s economy rely on some form of information connectivity, and it is expected that 5G will ultimately emerge as the primary form of wireless communications and networking facilitating this connectivity.
“The key issues faced by supporting seamless information exchange are items such as bandwidth, latency, and error robustness, “ he continued. “The technical challenges associated with enabling reliable connectivity given these performance metrics are going to be significant.”
Michael F. Wolff, Editor, CIMS IMR;