In today’s turbulent digital world, the last thing CIOs and other executives need is further disruption. Well, hold onto your hats, because 5G networking is around the corner.
Now that 4G is well-established, 5G is the next generation in development. 5G promises much greater speed and lower latency than 4G, but the conventional wisdom is that it will arrive in 2020 or later, and thus shouldn’t have much impact on IT roadmaps in 2016.
Think again. Production trials are slated to begin as early as the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, putting this technology well within the typical three-year technology refresh cycle – reason enough to include 5G in today’s IT plan.
But more importantly, 5G promises greater disruption well beyond faster speeds – and market disruption is more about placing the right bets than straightforward planning. Regardless of your industry, it’s time to get up to speed on 5G.
On Beyond Speed
Up to 100 times greater speed. Latency cut by a factor of 5. And data volumes up to 1,000 times greater than 4G – and yet, these improvements aren’t necessarily the most disruptive aspects of 5G. “5G will act as a catalyst for innovation across much of the IT industry,” according to a new report from 451 Research, The Coming Revolution: 5G and its Impact on IT. “Whether it is real-time analytics, datacenter design, location-based Web services, or social networks and digital currencies, 5G will affect demand patterns, possibly from as early as 2018 in some geographies.”
5G will essentially supplant most wired and Wi-Fi networking for what we use these technologies for today, both for consumers and in businesses of all sizes. Wi-Fi itself will also undergo dramatic changes in the next four years as well, so the question of which one to use may be solely a matter of cost.
One focus of 5G’s disruption: the data center, as it inevitably becomes software defined. “Successful 5G networks will need to have a software defined networking (SDN) core to allow flexibility and programmability throughout the network itself,” explains Andrei Enescu, Wireless System Integration Team Manager at Freescale Semiconductor, in an article for Design News. “At the core of the network is network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking…. As more users and devices infiltrate the network, SDN and NFV will be crucial in not only reallocating resources based on demand but also in deploying services to the edge of the network, driving a revolutionary change in the way networks operate.”
In addition to the speed, latency, and bandwidth improvements, 5G also requires far less power in endpoint devices, and it also supports a much greater density of endpoints in a particular location than 4G – two capabilities essential for the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).
In other words, 5G resolves most if not all the issues that hinder 4G. “5G is about solving the wireless challenges that exist today, including reliability for multiple devices, energy efficiency and bandwidth standards that will enable the transformation of industry and society,” says Ho Seong Kim, ASEAN Communication, Media and High Tech (CMT) Lead at Accenture in an article for Enterprise Innovation. “For example, the opportunity for properly connected smart cities, remote surgery, driverless cars and the Internet of Things.”
Not only will 5G enable the number of IoT devices and sensors to explode, it will also transform the types of interactions the IoT will support, for example, in manufacturing. “Robots will be connected to the cloud in real time for safety and correction,” explains Markus Dillinger, director for industry communications for Smart Grid at Huawei, in an article for Forbes. “If the robot faces objects it can’t identify, they will be identified in the cloud and countermeasures will be sent.”
Once enterprises begin to take advantage of IoT-enabled business models, it’s clear that the existing network will no longer be up to snuff. “5G is important as we are beginning to outgrow the current network design top to bottom,” says Roger Entner, the founder of Recon Analytics and an expert on 5G wireless networks, in an article for CIO. “We need faster speeds and more devices on the network than we expected 10 years ago and we need to solve with a new approach rather than duct tape and spit. It will help businesses to connect more wireless devices with faster speeds and lower latencies.”
Tailored, Virtualized Services
With 5G, operators and enterprises will also have the ability to establish virtual networks connecting arbitrary endpoints, providing enhanced security while enabling new topologies like peer-to-peer networks.
In addition, operators will be able to prioritize traffic by endpoint or virtual network, allowing for specialized uses of the technology. “5G is very different from its predecessors in that the system is built as a platform to provide tailored services optimized for individual customer’s needs, at a global scale,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, CTO at SK Telecom in an article for Business Cloud News. “We will be able to better understand and build a 5G system that can provide consistent and enhanced user experience across the globe.”
The applications of this capability are numerous, from specialized multiplayer gaming networks to over the top (OTT) services – think a cable set-top box, only now without cable, and not requiring anything like a box, either. Furthermore, the power usage might be so low that the battery might outlast the device itself.
Operators can also use this capability to offer tiered pricing. “One view is that we’ll be able to launch end-to-end 5G services that are differentiated on latency and speed,” says Bjørn Taale Sandberg, head of research for Telenor ASA (NASDAQ:TELN), in an article for Light Reading. “If that becomes possible then telcos have an opportunity to have several tiers of pricing.”
There is one cloud on this horizon, however: regulatory issues surrounding Net Neutrality. Many jurisdictions have ruled that charging different amounts for different levels of service over the Internet goes counter to free trade – and the same concerns may apply to 5G.
With Disruption Comes Opportunity
There are still many unknowns surrounding 5G – the standards are incomplete, the rollout timeline is up in the air, and whether it will live up to its promise is anyone’s guess. Nobody would disagree, however, that 5G will shake things up, both for mobile telephony operators and for enterprises.
Operators, predictably, will be the first to experience 5G’s disruptions. “Operators will need to fundamentally rethink core network design. Lower-cost, low-power and low-latency networks will not be possible using the same technology that has been used in the past,” continues the 451 Research report. “5G will push operators toward virtualized, software-defined and cloud-centric distributed computing models of service delivery.”
The disruption, however, extends well beyond the operators. “5G will help to realize a completely new world for consumers, for vertical industries and for operators,” opines Heng Qiu, President of Wireless Network Marketing Operation at Huawei, in an article for Forbes. “This will be a fully connected world converging the physical world and the cyber world, and this world will provide infinite new business opportunities for vertical industries and for operators.”
Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Boston Public Library.
This article was written by Jason Bloomberg from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.