5G has been the talk of the industry for years if not decades but where are we now? Where are we heading and what are the key considerations for a network operators’ 5G roadmap? We take a look at the much-vaunted next-generation network.
Like any revolution though the key players, mobile network operators, have to be ready for significant change not only in terms of their own infrastructure but customer requirements, in particular, enterprise clients who will have a wide range of ideas as to how they can leverage the technology. Understanding these requirements, the current state-of-play and how we build a strong, secure, value-driven 5G platform is key to realising these opportunities.
Where is 5G now?
As of February this year, there are currently 378 commercial 5G networks in operation across 34 countries. South Korea is widely recognised as one of the leading countries in terms of 5G deployment with a projected 90% of Korea’s mobile users to be using 5G by 2026. The next-generation network is available in 85 Korean cities, compared to 57 in China, 50 in the US, 34 in the UK and 24 in Saudi Arabia.
The potential of 5G networks
4G is by far the dominant network technology across the globe but according to the GSMA this will change by 2025, with 1 in 5 cellular connections being on a 5G network. This will enable MNOs and MVNOs to exponentially increase data capacity and speed while eliminating latency. With network slicing, operators can manage traffic with greater control and efficiency allocating the appropriate amount of resources to a specific use case.
eSIMs and eUICC software will propel the growth of cellular IoT with improved form factors and remote management capabilities ensuring that more and more devices are connected through a cellular network. In fact, 5G’s value is likely to be maximised when it is combined with other new technologies such as eSIM, AR/VR/MR, machine learning & AI, blockchain etc. 5G sets the stage for all these emerging technologies to really establish themselves opening up a new world of opportunities that promises a great deal.
According to Ericsson, the smartphone market offers significant opportunities for operators. For example: Consumers in the US would prefer to cut the cord from cable TV and instead use streaming services via 5G. The same report stated that smartphone users are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for 5G, and early adopters as much as 32 percent. However, higher internet speed alone won’t be enough: 4 in 10 high spenders expect new apps and services from their 5G plan.
Consumers want more from their smartphones. Although 4G led the way for more rapid data access and content streaming, 5G will take this to a whole new level. Instant access to HD videos, rich media, cloud gaming, and other content at the same time is only available through an always-on 5G connection. However, the potential of 5G goes beyond just smartphones. There is a growing industry consensus that the enterprise segment offers the biggest incremental revenue opportunity for operators in the 5G era where it can provide businesses a significant competitive advantage. A report by Ericsson forecasts that by 2030, service providers stand to gain up to $700 billion of 5G-enabled business-to-business (B2B) revenue.
With 5G rolling out, leading operators have started to deploy enterprise use cases on live networks and are benefiting from unique characteristics such as enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable network and network slicing.
Here are a few of these use cases of new services that operators can launch with 5G:
Carry out remote surgery by connecting doctors and robots
A combination of advanced robotics, powered by almost-zero-latency, high-capacity 5G networks means doctors and patients can be separated by thousands of miles. Surgeons in China have already proved the concept by operating remotely on a patient with a latency of fewer than two milliseconds.
Enable the widespread future deployment of autonomous vehicles
Prototyping and development of self-driving vehicles by the likes of Google and Tesla are progressing quickly, but real-world adoption means the deployment of vehicle-embedded 5G devices on a wide scale will allow 5G networks to support both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-everything data transfer.
Track and control assets in real-time
As global supply chains evolve and become ever more complex, real-time tracking of goods and assets requires widely deployed, 5G-connected IoT monitoring and tracking devices. Tracking isn’t limited to logistics, either — major industrial and commercial businesses can use remote devices to monitor and control operations anywhere in the world.
Empower smarter, faster manufacturing
With Industry 4.0, manufacturing relies on deeply interconnected machines and devices to capture, process, and manage information, making changes to the production process as needed. Edge computing, sensors, and self-healing networks will all rely on 5G to maximise efficiency in manufacturing.
MNO’s enterprise teams need to be working with these industries and lucrative use cases to offer compelling services for businesses so they can cover their 5G investment with tangible returns.
The importance of security
One thing that is frequently overlooked when talking about 5G is the importance of security. In an Accenture survey, 68 percent of respondents said they believed 5G would make their businesses more secure. The same survey also showed another couple of more concerning trends:
- 69 percent said user privacy was their biggest concern with 5G.
- 75 percent believe that introducing more 5G devices drives up the likelihood of data breaches.
5G means that the throughput of sensitive data will increase significantly so the integrity of this data must be central to your 5G security strategy. You will need to evolve your existing 4G security standards and reapply them to a 5G world. The repercussions of a data breach are unthinkable for the MNO and enterprise alike and can be potentially fatal for many in terms of significant reputational damage and thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
How do you protect your 5G investment?
Any 5G IoT device or network relies on a robust SIM solution for sending, receiving, and managing data in a safe and secure way. One of the best ways to achieve this is to work with a provider that follows the GSMA standardisation that meets strict regulatory standards to ensure the right combination of security, compliance, and interoperability across existing and future systems and devices so as to avoid costly changes at the point of every network evolution.
So far, the majority of 5G deployments have been non-standalone (NSA). Standalone (SA) has been in the works for a long time, and we can now see that many operators are at quite advanced stage for this. Building a clear 5G roadmap for both NSA and SA implementation means you’ll be able to seamlessly transition from NSA to SA as soon as ROI has reached a sizeable level. As a GSMA SAS-certified secure provider of UICC and eUICC SIM solutions, we can help you evolve your 5G strategy and identify the segments that will bring in the highest ROI. To learn more about 5G opportunities and future-proofing your existing SIM products, get in touch with us here.