What’s next for 5G and future trends

By: James Bourne

19, December, 2019


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5G is set to revolutionise consumer and business communications and processes. Yet its development right now, in terms of vendor strategy and business outlook, is more a meandering country lane than a superfast highway.

This is not meant to be taken as a criticism. Like any emerging technology – be it artificial intelligence, blockchain, or others – you get the coattail riders and associated hangers-on who are more interested in fuelling the hype train than concentrating on the hard work of adoption. The process of building, to standardising, and then rollout, with various stakeholders, means key decisions need to be made along the journey.

Yet take a look at the technology providers squabbling with one another and you’ll see that 5G is a cauldron of consumer confusion today.

Take the announcement from T-Mobile on December 2 that ‘America’s first nationwide 5G network is here’ as an example. CEO John Legere called it a ‘huge step towards 5G for all’, with the press release almost beside itself in excitement. Yet this does not tell the full story. T-Mobile has chosen to build out a broad 5G network, sacrificing speed as a result, compared with Verizon and AT&T who are going for a smaller-scale but faster approach. Michael McCormack, research analyst for Guggenheim Partners, told CNN Business the T-Mobile launch ‘won’t be the 5G dream.’

AT&T, meanwhile, calls its super-fast, super-limited millimetre-wave network 5G+. The rollout in New York in August was touted as being ahead of rivals. The operator has been in legal wrangles with Sprint over the marketing of what it called 5G-E, which only delivered 4G speeds. Sprint took out a full page ad in the New York Times alleging AT&T’s campaign was ‘false and deceptive.’

Confused? As Wired’s Klint Finley pointed out in September, carriers have a history of playing these word games. “When one carrier starts using another over 5G claims, it’s a sign that the ‘race to 5G’ marketing campaign is getting out of hand,” said Chris Lewis, president of advocacy group Public Knowledge at the time.

It’s therefore not surprising that consumers have ended up fatigued before the ‘race’ has even been run. A study from Deloitte found that 84% of consumers surveyed were yet to be convinced that paying operators $15 extra per month for 5G was worth it. “5G offers yet higher speed connections to smartphones, but aside from network speed tests, there may be relatively few consumer apps that need 5G’s network performance,” the report warned.

Examining the enterprise use cases – marrying high expectations with more evident benefits – may as a result be more prudent. 5G will ‘not only bring about a transformation in industry, but also impact businesses significantly’, according to a note from Strategy Analytics, as a ‘huge impact on productivity, mobility and profitability’ will be realised. According to a Gartner survey, while IoT communications and video are the top use cases, a second tier – ranging from location tracking, to automation, to high-performance analytics – will help businesses benefit from 5G.

What’s more, according to a Gartner note from August, communication services providers – Ericsson, Nokia et al – will be increasingly aiming their 5G services at the enterprise market. The note added that 2020 and 2021 will be focused on 5G coverage of hotspots and areas of high population density.

As can be seen, the consumer and enterprise 5G landscape is one where plenty of twists and turns await. For service providers, businesses, and end users alike, events such as the 5G Expo Global, in London on March 17-18, are the perfect place to work out where you stand on the journey, what you need to do to progress – and hope to cure the confusion.

Trends for the future of telecommunications

Embracing 5G

After the 5G hype of 2018, the next five years are about starting to deliver on the promises. 5G is expected to bring about vastly more efficient and faster connectivity, along with its low latency advantage and virtualisation and cloud capabilities. All the publicity is already making customer expectations soar, which in turn, will force telcos to keep up the pace; the issue that is currently hindering the market.

IoT evolves

Going forward IoT might finally begin to deliver on its full potential, as we see new applications that will only be possible using 5G’s new capabilities.
A clear monetisation strategy is needed to extract the most of this technology. Innovators can offer various pricing models such as subscriptions, pay-as-you-go and pay-for-results models.

Further regulations

As telecommunications capability and complexity grows so do the regulations set upon it. The hottest topic at the moment is the GDPR regulations. Many believe that making your telecom GDPR-compliant will cost you millions and yet agree that failing to comply with it, will bring even more headaches and pitfalls in your business. We predict as innovation continues in the telecoms sector so too will the need for increased cyber security and restrictions– companies will need to adapt and change as the trends develop.

Augmented Reality and Virtual RealityAugmented Reality (AR) continually grows in power and popularity. From gaming and user experience to social media face filters and tourism/events, the industry has already vastly changed to incorporate these new technologies. We expect this trend to grow bigger in the upcoming years, thus creating a demand for more sophisticated applications and more reliable connectivity. The biggest impact will be for Smartphone users as they embrace AR more every year for viral content. On the other side of the wheel B2B markets will begin to use AR to revolutionise the way people work; For example, a truck mechanic will be able to identify a key broken part or function simply from holding up their smartphone. AR will begin to significantly decrease workload, making the whole process more efficient, in turn increasing the ROI and greatly pleasing the end user.