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5G: Reconfiguring Technology, Reconfiguring Lives

The next big game changer in the industry is the 5G. With the potential to revolutionize consumer experiences as well as the industrial Digital Transformation, 5G holds immense potential. Its application areas are vast and spread across all major sectors. 5G will effectively rewrite the way we perceive technology.

In April last year, South Korea launched the world’s first nationwide 5G mobile networks. The top three telecom providers in South Korea – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, initially made the much awaited wireless technology accessible for six South Korean celebrities, making them ‘the world’s first 5G smartphone subscribers’.By June 1.6 million people had subscribed to the new service as reported by the GSM Association. The South Korean 5G subscribers then made up 77 per cent of the global population of 5G users.

China closely followed South Korea in the race to deploy 5G network by launching the world’s largest 5G network. China Mobile, China Unicorn and China Telecom – the three largest Chinese operators activated their 5G networks in October last year. At the time of the launching of the 5G services, the three telecom operators had collectively deployed close to 86,000 5G base stations. The GSM Association predicts that 36% of China’s mobile users will be using 5G by 2025, comprising 40% of the global 5G market by 2025.

US, UK and Japan is also in the race to deploying 5G technology.

The onset of 2020 witnessed global 5G leaders – América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone – coming together to create a specialized forum to accelerate the delivery of 5G and mobile-edge computing-enabled solutions around the world.

“Telecommunications companies are in the driver’s seat when it comes to creating opportunities for their customers to take advantage of the world of possibilities enabled by 5G,” said Nikos Katinakis, Group Executive for Networks and IT, Telstra

“5G will go beyond mobile broadband and positively impact disruptive technologies such as robotics, self-driving cars, and smart cities. It will foster innovation in agriculture, health care, and education by highly enhancing the mobile user experience through cloud-based virtual reality, which will allow emerging and developed markets to deliver quality health care to people living in remote areas. 5G will also allow ultra-high definition video availability wherever you go and take it even further in helping open new revenue streams for telecom companies and content service providers. It will enhance the business value chain and boost the country’s IT market and economy in the long run.”

Ninad Desai, District Chair, BICSI India

5G: The Game Changer

5G is expected to be the game changer for the enterprises as it has the potential to impact all sectors – Automobiles, Supply chain, Education, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Distribution, Retail, BFSI, Emergency services, etc. This is why enterprises are eagerly awaiting the advent of 5G, which will lay the foundation for the development of multiple domains as the whole gamut of emerging technologies dependent on low latency connectivity for optimum functionality. The evolution of deployment of technologies like Cloud Computing, Robotics, AI&ML, IoT, Edge Computing, etc. is fundamentally linked to a seamless connectivityand 5G holds the promise of speed as high as 10Gbps.

Keysight predicts that, “In 2020 the industry will move from a small group of early-movers who have commercialized initial 5G networks, to a global community in which multiple operators in every continent and in many countries will have commercial 5G networks.The early adopters will add scale and those who launch in 2020 will quickly resolve issues in their initial deployments. Second-generation devices and base stations will be added to the market.”

“A large-scale 5G rollout is likely to come to pass in 2020, with chipset manufacturers, smartphone brands, and telecom operators taking a page out of the playbooks of 5G nations such as the China and US. This 5G adoption will also increase the network bandwidth in new-age chipsets, powering a rapid increase in the number of everyday use-cases for these cutting-edge technologies such as AI, ML and Edge Computing.”

Eric Zhou, EVP, UNISOC.

As 5G evolves, it enables technologies like mobile-edge computing, and together they deliver lowest latency networks to mobile and connected devices while improving data throughput, reliability, power efficiency and security. This allows organizations, the capability to deliver a wide range of transformative business and consumer use cases, like Machine Learning at the Edge, Smart Cars and Cities, etc.

Commenting on the possibilities that 5G opens up for the industries, Ninad Desai, District Chair, BICSI India, says, “With more than 3 billion devices connected, 5G’s collaboration with technologies such as RFID, Ethernet Wi-Fi and 5G enabled WANs, coupled with AI-ML and Data Analytics will help provide huge opportunities in predictive analytics that has the potential to save precious lives and resources in case of natural as well as manmade disasters.”

Another key reason why 5G is the great enabler is that it intrinsically brings together the Mobile Networks Operators, Equipment Vendors and other Industry Stakeholders. As the Mobile Network Operators will play a central role in the deployment and management of the 5G networks by committing to the CAPEX and OPEX requirements. The Equipment Vendors will be responsible for developing 5G technologies, defining and introducing 5G products. Finally, the Industry Stakeholders will contribute to the wave of 5G enabled massive innovation on the product (autonomous vehicles) and the productivity side (IIoT).

“With 5G networks will come the advent of 5G-only IoT and IIoT devices, which do not require connecting to the local network to operate. This will diminish the risk of an IoT device used as an attack vector against the rest of the network.”

Renaud Deraison, Co-founder and CTO, Tenable.

According to a report by Spirent, 5G: What to Expect In 2020, 5G Standalone might be coming earlier than expected. There is a rush to move past Non-Standalone (NSA) to Standalone (SA) rollouts in an effort to capture revenues in industries like manufacturing, automotive, mobile gaming, manufacturing and beyond. Based on testing timetables, Spirent expects a slate of 5G SA deployments in the first half of 2020.

So, while the industry awaits 5G becoming a reality, it discusses the potentialof 5G deployment.

Application areas

5G is primarily built on 3 main pillars – eMBB, URLLC and mMTC. It is these capabilities that create tremendous opportunities for the application of the 5G network.

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): This will provide customersand industrial users of the mobile network with enhanced capacities across sectors.
  • Ultra-reliable and Low Latency Communication (URLLC): This will support new use cases as it will expand the purview of mission critical applications.
  • Massive Mahcine-type Communications (mMTC): This will enable the industry to expand the network of their connected devices andmachinery.

5G is a key enabler of the next global industrial revolution, where technology will transform how we live and work. It’s critical that technology partners around the world unite to create the most seamless global experience for the customers.”

Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon.

5G Enabling Robotics

5G makes possible Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication that increases the application areas of the technology. One highly anticipated and talked about application area of 5G enabled Robotics is Autonomous Vehicles. Onboard computer systems operating at nominal latency, coupled with automation, will pave way for autonomous vehicles. 5G will enable the vehicles to respond at a faster rate than is otherwise possible, which means that they can not only detect but also simultaneously respond to the objects and changes around them. Connected vehicle technology will be enabled with bidirectional communications – vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure. This will promote safe transportation systems.

 “5G is going to being in a revolution to the new era of robotics, that is looked upon to be equipped with next gen robotics with zero latency performing in real time visual and haptic scenario with sense of touch to even the most critical and delicate tasks been assigned. It is going to revolutionize by drastically cutting down on cables, electrifying wireless connectivity, making automated through IoT sensors, optimization with higher agility.” Sunil Gubrani, IT-Head, RAL Group.

5G Enabling Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the sectors that stand to greatly benefit from high-speed uninterrupted connectivity. From real-time video surgeries and wireless telesurgery with a robot to telemedicine, 5G opportunities in healthcare are crucial to enhancing the quality of the patient care provided.

“5G will help turn ambulances into mobile clinics wherein equipment could be operated through VR and patients could be thoroughly examined. The stability that the 5G communication protocol provides is what will help make these procedures perform as desired. This will invariably help improve the quality of health care received by millions worldwide and help change the traditional approach that is cluttered with inefficiencies of cost and technology limitations. Wearable devices connected via 5G will help medical professionals effectively screen and diagnose patients remotely and even allow surgeons to perform minor surgeries anywhere as the technology matures with time and experience.” Ninad Desai, District Chair, BICSI India

5G Enabling IoT

As the number of connected devices continue to grow, both at the consumer and the industrial level, 5G will go a long way in providing seamless, low latency connectivity that supports the pace at which the number of devices requiring data connection in the network increases. In the consumer market it will expand the network of wearables, trackers, sensors, gadgets, appliances and machines. Industrial IoT, on the other hand, will greatly impact the Logistics and Manufacturing sectors, for instance, by connecting sensors, trackers, heavy machinery, etc. This also means that 5G enabled IIoTwill also be highly scalable, error-free and quick, as it will do away with the limitations of manual labor.

“The biggest opportunities are the growth and adoption of 5G adoption worldwide, means a plethora of opportunities for IoT to thrive and expand. Many solutions that are in ideation phase could see life. The sole reason being 5G is the solution to all challenges posed by IoT in terms of connectivity.Billions of devices are getting connected but that poses a serious constraint on bandwidth and challenge to the security in terms of how things are managed over the network. Also speed is another factor that remotely connected sensor hub demands.” Sukanya Mandal, IEEE Member and Data Science Professional.

5G in India 

In a recent whitepaper, TRAI identified 5G as the latest iteration of cellular technology that will provide seamless coverage, high data rate, low latency, and highly reliable communications. It is also slated to increase energy efficiency, spectrum efficiency, network efficiency as well as efficiency of other systems.

In the upcoming 5G spectrum auction by the government tentatively in April-June 2020, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio will be the major players partnering with equipment vendors Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung.

“New specifications will allow us to offer services that work consistently across the globe and support devices moving between countries. 5G opens up a wealth of opportunities for new solutions and business models and we’re excited to play a role in bringing them to life.”

Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business.

What are the Challenges?

There are innumerable theoretical applications as speculated by the professionals of how the deployment of 5G will practically revolutionize the Digital Transformation process. But there are very tangible challenges that obstruct such a transformation.

Commenting on the same, Sunil Gubrani, IT-Head, RAL Group said “As 5G takes shape I am sure it is going to witness challenges in two main areas wherein to meet the expectations of the high demands of a wide set of application domains, and deploying across diverse social and geographic environments.”

Security Concerns

The first challenge that baffles the industry is the security concerns that 5G connectivity will create for the organizations. It can open multiple ports for the hackers to enter the main network and eventually access the critical data to disrupt operations. 5G, whjle expanding the network and making it efficient, it will simultaneously make the network vulnerable, thereby increasing the security threats for the organization. The double edged sword of interconnectedness, will make the network prone to cyber-attacks. Information Security, then becomes a critical concern of large scale 5G adoption.

The next challenge is Infrastructure. Given that deployment of 5G fundamentally relies on a robust ICT Infrastructure, it will require a complete overhauling of the network systems. As per industry estimates, more than $250 billion investment in equipment and infrastructure for 5G will be required over the next 10 years. Such a large scale investment poses its own issues. The exisiting service providers will have to invest a considerable amount in getting the required infrastructure in place, including but not limited to base stations, antennas and most importantly the fiber optic network cabling infrastructure, as the technology isn’t an upgrade over 4G but a complete overhaul.

“While 5G holds tremendous promise, overhauling our essential networks will open a Pandora’s box due to the introduction of radio frequencies that to date have not been accessible, not to mention the minimized visibility that will result from them. This will require us to put an even greater focus on the security of our connections, devices and applications. 5G devices come with built-in radios that don’t require communication with the corporate network anymore. This makes it incredibly difficult to identify threats and compromised devices. It’s never been more critical for cybersecurity products to work together as a system. Organizations will need a layered approach to security where products connect and share actionable intelligence. A synchronized security approach builds bridges allowing products to work together stronger than they would on their own,” said Dan Schiappa, Chief Product Officer, Sophos

Forecepoint comments, “Fifth generation cellular network technology (5G) allows data transfer at a 10 times faster rate than 4G. While this appears to be a promising service for organisations, the more reliable connectivity and lower latency of 5G will also work in favour of determined employees wishing to transfer swathes of corporate data. With the roll-out of 5G continuing in 2020, cybersecurity stack needs to have visibility and control of such data movement else organizations risk being unable to identify data theft at the speed necessary.”

Another challenge, that follows the adoption of all new technologies, is the Skills and Workforce Deficit. “The industry currently has a workforce that has the skills for the wrong century, the industry skillsets required to get ready for the 5G onslaught needs professionals who can understand and build the ICT and telecom infrastructure for the 21st-century. But the way most people perform these jobs today is still stuck to that in the previous decade,” said Ninad Desai, District Chair, BICSI India.

Conclusion…

5G will evidently be a revolutionary force driving digital economies, improving economicgrowth, enhancing consumer experiences and creating new business models & opportunities. Low latency, larger bandwidth and greater connectivity will pave the way for improving the existing services and developing new use cases. The vast economic value generated by 5G deployment, thereforeamply justifies the substantial investment in ICT infrastructure without which 5G will remain a theoretical possibility.

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