It is expected to become the dominant mobile technology in 2029, but 5G adoption among businesses will require strong use cases to justify the necessary investments as well as collaboration across the entire ecosystem.
With countries like Singapore already operating pilots across many sectors, 5G deployments are expected to increase with more networks being deployed this year.
In fact, 5G connections will double over the next two years, with a new network expected to be rolled out in more than 30 countries this year alone, industry group GSMA said. Of the new networks scheduled to be deployed in 2023, 15 are expected to be independent of 5G networks. As of January 2023, there are 229 commercial 5G networks operating around the world. There are also more than 700 models of smartphones currently available in the market.
The next-generation communications network is expected to overtake 4G in 2029 to become the dominant mobile technology, with more than 85% adoption in the world’s largest 5G markets by 2030, according to GSMA’s annual report on the global mobile economy. The number of 5G connections is on track to reach 1.5 billion this year, before reaching an expected 5 billion by 2030.
5G will add nearly $1 trillion to the global economy in 2030, with the services and manufacturing sectors gaining the most value at 46% and 33%, respectively.
In addition, the majority of operators expect private wireless networks to account for up to 20% of total enterprise revenue, driven by improvements in 5G capabilities. Consumer deliveries are expected to pass 1 billion by the end of 2022 and will reach 1.5 billion this year, before reaching 2 billion by the end of 2025.
However, operator growth is expected to come from the enterprise market, which will be the main driver of 5G revenue growth over the next decade, according to the GSMA. This customer segment currently contributes, on average, 30% of total revenue for major operators, and this number is likely to grow as organizations continue their digitalization efforts.
Edge computing and IoT (Internet of Things) also provide additional opportunities for 5G, with 12% of operators already offering proprietary wireless products and services. The GSMA said this will increase with a broader range of IoT deployments expected this year.
Guannan Lu, an analyst at Forrester, said that while there will be many 5G opportunities on the enterprise side, exploring business cases that deliver the desired results is a key challenge. Most manufacturers use, for example, fixed grids.
“Building 5G applications requires investments for network upgrade and integration. Without clear business values, it is difficult to justify such an investment,” Lu said. “Additionally, solution delivery lacks a standardized approach, making use cases difficult to replicate. 5G vendors need to co-innovate with customers on a wide range of use cases and simplify their existing offerings.”
According to Bill Rojas, associate director of research for Asia Pacific at IDC, the industry’s use cases will be driven by mobile network operators as well as system integrators and vertical specialists. Rojas, who is based in Hong Kong, added that early users will come from manufacturing, logistics, transportation and smart city applications.
Market players such as Huawei Technologies have identified key sectors such as healthcare and marine services, providing vertically customized 5G products and services. Huawei, for example, is working with Tianjin Port Group to build a digital twin of the port and introduce more automation and intelligence. The cooperation includes the establishment of new automated stations in addition to modernizing the traditional stations.
Singapore find use cases, you must explore private networks
In Singapore, commercial adoption in the enterprise space is accelerating, with use cases including automated quality checks, powered by computer visualization, on manufacturing sites.
As the first country to be entirely covered by standalone 5G, Singapore’s rollout of its 5G infrastructure provides a vital foundation with essential services to drive digital innovation in the country, said Charlie Day, vice president and director of research at Forrester.
Autonomous vehicles with low-latency IoT connectivity are also being deployed for logistics and port operations, while data analytics is streamed at the edge with distributed data warehousing to support real-time decision making.
Rojas said there are also opportunities for the country to expand 5G deployments in public infrastructures, such as smart city monitoring and monitoring, traffic congestion management, and smart street lighting.
When asked what challenges Singapore could face in driving 5G adoption, he noted that applications and use cases that require network slicing or URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications), such as Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR), will need a network 5G is massively operating on the ground, in all urban areas.
He said phone prices for retina-enabled devices should also be in a mid-range segment suitable for driving wider adoption. “End computing assets will become important in a similar timescale as AR/VR and network slicing adoption,” he added.
Day also stressed the importance of timing in fueling 5G adoption.
“The 5G network will augment existing technologies rather than serve as an alternative technology,” he said. “Ensuring ROI (return on investment) in 5G adoption, while managing the complexity of regulatory policies, business impact and emphasis on technologies is critical. Regulators as well as business and technology leaders should take a holistic and holistic approach to aligning priorities, focusing on the right platforms, practices and partners to become fit for the future.”
Noting that 5G adoption is still in the exploration phase, Lu said the entire 5G ecosystem will be critical, and includes regulators and standard bodies, 5G infrastructure vendors, software and hardware providers, and mobile phone manufacturers.
To successfully navigate the 5G market in China, for example, it recommended that decision makers on both the buyer and seller side be realistic, especially given the pressures of a potential economic downturn.
Rojas also suggested that Singapore’s industry regulator, the Information Media Development Authority (IMDA), seek opinions from industry to determine whether there is a need to allocate dedicated spectrum to private networks.
He noted that mobile network operators in the country are required to build stand-alone 5G networks that enable network slicing and URLLC. Hence, building private networks using these operators’ spectrum can be a priority as well as plugging network slicing into the overall network.
“The industry will have to convince the regulator that they need their own network spectrum [land] An area like Singapore, there could be a case made for mmWave [to facilitate] Rojas said.
The IDC analyst notes that Hong Kong, for example, has established a licensing system to support many flavors of private networks. In 2021 regulators issued a more restrictive version of the Wireless Broadband Service (LWBS) license that was for private use only. Licensees were not to publish public tariffs, display billing and metering accuracy, or administer service contracts as required of public telecommunications service providers.
Manjut Singh Man, CEO of M1, believes that unlicensed 5G private networks have low connectivity and viability in Singapore. “Domestically, M1 is already developing and deploying end-to-end 5G solutions that companies from various industries can easily adopt,” said Mann. “High QoS (Quality of Service) and enhanced data security are best managed through carrier-grade solutions at scale with network providers. As such, there is no urgent need for unlicensed private 5G networks.”
The Singaporean telecom company is working with Gardens by the Bay, among others, to provide indoor 5G-enabled metaverse experiences for tourist attractions. It also recently signed a partnership with the National Heritage Board to provide 5G connectivity and edge computing products and services to the National Museum of Singapore and the Children’s Museum of Singapore (CMSG).
But while 5G adoption among consumers is on the rise, Mann noted that the enterprise sector will see exponential growth in adoption and is where the value of 5G lies. M1 has, to date, conducted more than 15 5G use cases and partnerships.
“With all the experimentation we’ve had over the years, we’re now at the inflection point for 5G solutions to take off,” he said. “These 5G solutions are no longer just experimental use cases, but commercially viable solutions that are scalable and ready for businesses to adopt, deploy, and scale. Once more commercial solutions are readily available, more support and grants from government will likely be able to further accelerate 5G adoption.” .
He also emphasized the importance of industrial cooperation. “One way to continue to drive 5G adoption is through partnerships to co-create 5G solutions and demonstrate real results,” said Mann.
Easier access for developers to drive 5G innovation
Teamwork in the industry also seems to be the main topic this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
At the show, the GSMA presented an API (Application Programming Interface) framework that it said would provide developers with “universal access” to operators’ networks. Dubbed GSMA Open Gateway, the initiative is currently supported by 21 mobile operators worldwide, including Singapore’s Singtel, Australia’s Telstra, China Mobile, South Korea’s KT, Japan’s KDDI, Deutsche Telekom, Swisscom, and India’s Bharti Airtel.
The Open Gateway APIs are developed and published in the CAMARA open source project, which is led by the Linux Foundation in collaboration with the GSMA. It aims to facilitate the flow of APIs and access between carriers and developers as well as cloud providers.
Eight APIs are available at launch, including SIM swapping, edge location selection, routing, and number verification (SMS 2FA). They can be used to facilitate services such as autonomous vehicles, drones, fleet management, incident reporting, and immersive online gaming.
More APIs will be added throughout the year, according to the GSMA.
Speaking at the conference, GSMA Chairman José María lvarez-Palette said the Open Gateway initiative will enable single access points to ultra-broadband networks and provide an incentive for immersive Web 3 technologies.
“By standardizing open network APIs and implementing the concept of interoperability roaming, mobile operators and cloud services will be truly integrated,” Alvarez-Palet said. “Collaboration between telecom operators and cloud service providers is critical in this new digital ecosystem.”
He added that future digital services will be enabled through communication networks, which are shared across any device and at any time, with full interoperability and real-time computing.
Network traffic will accelerate amid further data growth over the next decade, driven by emerging technologies such as Web3 and artificial intelligence (AI). This will lead to speed, mobility, security, and privacy challenges, with a focus on network latency, storage capacity, computation, and allocation services.
Alvarez-Pallet said the underlying infrastructure must facilitate all of this, including cloud and programmable computing technologies delivered with low latency, urging carriers to step up and “transform.”
The traditional communication network is no longer enough. Instead, a “widely distributed, decentralized supercomputer” will be needed, with open interfaces and standard APIs playing a major role, he said, referring to the Open Gateway initiative.
He added, “We live in extraordinary times, in which digital technology is the foundation upon which the economy and our society are built.” “[The mobile industry] This journey will continue and prove to be a catalyst for immersive technologies like the metaverse and Web3 to realize their potential.”
Singapore-based Elaine Yu reports for ZDNET from Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona, Spain, at the invitation of Huawei Technologies.