5G isn't just a buzzword. It will change the world

An XL Axiata technician checks the operator's base transceiver station on a tower in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13, 2018. Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/via REUTERS     ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. INDONESIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN INDONESIA. - RC1B68FD27B0

Service providers need to invest billions in infrastructure to enable 5G. Image: REUTERS

CP Gurnani
Managing Director and CEO, Tech Mahindra
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The countdown to the 5G revolution has begun and the explosion of connected devices, such as mobile phones, televisions, security systems, and speakers, among others, is only going to intensify.

As the next big thing in the journey of digital transformation, 5G will have an enormous impact on mankind. It will undoubtedly disrupt the way we live and work.

It will go beyond mobile broadband, and impact self-sustaining modern human establishments like smart cities, robotics, self-driving cars, and foster innovation in critical sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and education.

For businesses, 5G is poised to be the transformational tipping point that will accelerate the global market reach and reshape the competitive landscape. It will give an opportunity to re-examine business processes with a 5G lens and invest intelligently in next generation technologies.

The 5G network will become the differentiator that will foster new innovations with its ability to deliver unprecedented productivity gains, while pioneering new distribution and consumption models.

The potential for disruption is enormous and those who prepare well for 5G, have much to gain.

On a more personal level, the technological advancements that come along with a fully-developed 5G network will be life-changing. 5G has the potential to drastically improve the quality of healthcare received by hundreds of millions of patients and will fuel significant changes in the way healthcare is delivered.

Wearable devices and connected healthcare will help people monitor and manage their illnesses and allow medical professionals to efficiently screen and diagnose patients remotely. In fact, the 5G network has the potential to enable surgeons to robotically operate on patients from thousands of miles away.

The reason this is possible is because of the low-latency capabilities of 5G. Latency is the time delay required for information to travel across a network. With current networks, the latency is approximately 100 milliseconds. This is incredibly fast, but there is still a lag that makes it impossible to communicate in real-time.

With 5G, that latency is expected to be reduced to 1 millisecond. Once you have the ability to communicate over a network in near real-time, proximity will no longer matter. However, there are a lot of obstacles that need to be overcome before a doctor in Los Angeles performs surgery on a patient in Boston.


A long road ahead

Obstacles such as cost and regulatory oversight will need to be resolved before the low-latency capabilities of 5G can open up a new world of possibilities.

Today, there is a dire need to create a global digital code that will enable us to co-create, collaborate and co-innovate seamlessly into a digital world. Developing this code will require a mammoth effort from communications and technology providers around the world and, while that is well underway, universal acceptance of 5G will ultimately rely on having the infrastructure in place.

That brings us to cost. Communication service providers are going to need to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure to enable 5G. This includes investing in more antennas, base stations and fibre-optic cables, all of which must be in place before 5G can be widely adopted.

It is safe to assume that, with all the hype around 5G, these providers will find a way to ultimately build the infrastructure needed, but it will take a significant amount of time and money before we will be able to rely on the 5G network completely.

Additionally, governments and regulatory bodies will need to monitor advances and make it easier for telecommunication companies to invest in upgrading technology. Policies will have to be enacted to enable new revenue models, like data monetization and content management.

Finally, once the initial obstacles have been hurdled, there will be new regulatory and liability considerations for advanced automated features such as remote surgery, remote healthcare, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and public safety.

The future for 5G

2020 has been declared the year in which 5G will become commercially viable, global carriers have started 5G speed trials, and there are promises of 5G-ready devices. As the world gears up for the 5G implementation, translating the 5G promise into real impactful human experiences remains the challenge.

Developed cities will be the first to experience 5G, as rural areas currently lack the infrastructure to support the network, and it will take years before the whole world is connected. However, the pace of innovation is rapid and the commitment from the world’s largest communications and technology companies to deliver on the promise is encouraging.

Even though we are just in the beginning stages of 5G, it is clearly not just a buzzword anymore. Intense discussions are happening around the massive implications of 5G on various industries and it will undoubtedly disrupt the way we live, work and play.

In order to continue to advance technologically, we will need a stronger network. The future of innovation is tied to a successful rollout and implementation of 5G and when we get there, it will truly revolutionize the world.

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