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The growth of 5G is carrying on at an unprecedented rate compared with other generations of mobile communications. According to a study released by InterDigital and ABI Research, it’s on track to generate $7tn of economic value in 2030, 12 years after the official 3GPP standard was published.
The State of 5G report: Enabling the boundless generation claims the prospect for operators looks promising, as they witness the exponential rise of 5G and its growth opportunities – especially as 5G is set to support a wide range of revenue generating, mission critical applications. It notes that many operators and their partner suppliers are finding ways to develop new and better features in support of the network performance capabilities needed to realise the potential of 5G networks and its economic benefits.
The report examines the expectations of telecom operators as they look to capitalise on the latest generation of cellular technology to maintain and grow their profitability, and discusses the impact 5G is likely to have on the evolution of the mobile industry, particularly as it continues to enable innovative services such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive content. It also highlights how 5G is starting to introduce advanced enterprise-enabling features, including low latency, deterministic networking and advanced internet of things use cases, all of which are new in the mobile network domain.
The research adds that industry stakeholders have expressed high hopes for the upcoming wave of 5G services, which will likely enhance productivity and efficiency through mobility, among other improvements. However, it also recognises that 5G would not be possible without contributions to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which produces global technical reports and specifications on how next-generation networks should be built and implemented.
The adoption of 5G was found to be outpacing all previous generations of cellular technology in terms of subscription rate and operator roll-out, gaining significant traction from enterprise verticals. ABI Research said organisations that have significantly invested in the research for 5G are projected to sustain that investment well into the future, highlighting the continued interest in the commercial relevancy of the technology.
“The time we live in is an exciting inflection point for 5G and the way telecommunications networks are built and consumed,” said Rajesh Pankaj, chief technology officer at InterDigital. “As 5G deploys across the world, it’s helping to solve fundamental challenges, and laying the foundation for experimentation, new ideas and innovation.
“At the same time, 3GPP and the 5G supply chain are continuously working to progress 5G even further,” he said. “The early years of 5G have been foundational to its long-term success. Now is the time when we will experience and benefit from exciting new applications, new use cases and many more ways consumer lifestyles can be transformed.”
Dimitris Mavrakis, senior research director at ABI Research, said: “5G is now giving us a glimpse of what will be possible in the future and setting the foundation for the next generation of networks. The high capacity, high reliability and low latency capabilities of 5G are now starting to create the next wave of consumer and enterprise applications, in the very same way 4G seeded the creation of social networks, the collaborative economy and rich content. We are now in a very exciting technical era that will pave the way for 6G and future networks.”
While the technology promises to support data-hungry and latency-sensitive applications such as AR and VR, the report shows that the appetite for such services has not yet fully emerged, with new concepts such as the Metaverse being a more distant future vision. Yet it also reveals how 5G can be seen as transformative in supporting the roll-out of digital spaces, smart cities and smart public services. To enable all of this, governments and local authorities must remove the barriers to ubiquitous 5G access.
In particular, ABI expects the private 5G addressable market to grow at an exponential rate, mostly driven by verticals including energy and utilities, healthcare, and manufacturing. Indeed, in a separate study, 5G private wireless in manufacturing, ABI said the manufacturing and industrial sector is slowly realising 5G private networks are essential for automation, robotics and augmented reality.
It said that network upgrades can underpin the efforts of manufacturers to automate quality assurance processes, deploy autonomous mobile robots inside the facility and upskill employees using augmented reality. Lower latency and support for time-sensitive networking afforded by a 5G network can further enable wireless process automation for robotics use cases and increase bandwidth support for data-heavy applications such as video analytics.
In all, the study calculated that in 2030, manufacturing and industrial firms worldwide will have more than 49 million 5G connections inside their facilities, generating $2.4bn in global connections revenue for suppliers.
However, the report warned that a lack of 5G industrial devices has stalled manufacturers’ interest in 5G private wireless. It added that in turn, the lack of enthusiasm has discouraged hardware suppliers from creating the necessary devices, and as a result of the state of flux, equipment suppliers such as Nokia have launched converged devices supporting Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G connectivity.