5G, by definition, means more bandwidth and low latency. There are many applications that require high bandwidth and low latency. There are use cases around autonomous cars, telemedicine, remote surgeries in healthcare, video streaming and the larger entertainment business, and advanced gaming, to name a few.
Further, since 5G is all about better connectivity, private 5G network deployment by enterprises is also expected to pick up pace over the coming years. For enabling enterprise connectivity, a company is likely to have two options. It can either connect to a public 5G network or it can opt for a private 5G network. In the latter instance, it can purchase its own infrastructure and contract operational support from a mobile operator, or it can build and maintain its own 5G network using its own spectrum. For many of the world’s largest businesses, private 5G would become the preferred choice, especially for manufacturing plants, logistics centres and ports. According to a recent industry report, about a third of the 2020-25 demand for private 5G networks would originate from ports, airports and similar logistics hubs. These sectors are expected to be among the first movers in this space.
A look at some of the use cases of 5G across various sectors, and the way forward…..
Of late, the healthcare sector has become synonymous with telemedicine. Telemedicine is an integral part of the healthcare system and helps in making sure that these services are accessible to all. However, the delivery of telemedicine requires robust connectivity, which can only be provided by 5G. Some of the use cases of 5G in healthcare are remote monitoring of patients and enabling wearable technologies. Wearables can be used to predict and monitor the health of patients in real time. Innovative models in telemedicine can help prevent illness in a person through close monitoring. Further, with the help of internet of medical things (IoMT)-connected devices, medical professionals can remotely monitor their patients in hospitals and healthcare facilities. As a result, healthcare providers can access critical information about their patients in real time rather than interfacing with slow and incomplete databases. Also, IoMT and Edge technology, combined with AI, can expand how robotics and related tools are used in surgery. As such, 5G can help enterprises deliver the full potential of telemedicine.
Manufacturing is another sector that is standing at the cusp of a revolution, which will be heralded by 5G tech. 5G will enable the advancement of Industry 4.0. Supported by 5G, the sensors embedded in machines will communicate their health status to companies in real time. This will help firms conduct maintenance in a proactive manner and prevent breakdowns.
5G offers several other benefits as well for the manufacturing sector. These include enabling the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for effective training and troubleshooting potential machine-related issues. Moreover, private 5G networks could play a vital role in improving the density and performance of emerging technologies used in the manufacturing sector. These private networks are expected to be a key enabler of the “factory of the future” vision, with their high capacity, low latency, support for a huge number of devices, and IT-like flexibility. For instance, Nokia has been selected by the Toyota Production Engineering Corporation to deploy an industrial-grade private wireless network at its manufacturing design centre in Fukuoka, Japan.
The most advanced applications of 5G today are in the automotive space. This is where the industry is increasingly focusing its attention, given the sector’s low latency and security requirements. The main idea is to use 5G technology for autonomous cars and communication between cars. 5G will make connected cars a reality. This will also herald a new era of safety and anti-collision systems.
5G connectivity is expected to bring in a complementary digital transformation in the banking and financial sector. Banks will completely reinvent its processes, with 5G networks enabling them to upgrade their apps and websites for more efficiency. Payments and transactions will be simpler and faster, fuelling further adoption of digital payments by customers and merchants. Additionally, banks may look to create a more connected omni-channel experience by extending services to wearables, VR and IoT devices, in turn leading to the creation of more personalised services. Industry experts have noted that 5G will lead to the creation of “smart banks”, which will emerge as new hubs of tech innovation. Instant facial recognition, VR/AR banking, pattern recognition for augmented computing power, footfall analysis, etc. will improve the brick-and-mortar bank experience. Another area where 5G will play a key role in the banking industry is security and detection of fraudulent activities. AI-enabled fraud detection systems powered by 5G can instantly detect and prevent fraudulent activities. Owing to the high speed and low latency provided by 5G, biometric authentication along with multiple other security processes such as facial recognition and geo-location will be augmented. Further, with the help of 5G, banking institutions will be able to carry out real-time fraud detection and repair of security flaws across apps, websites, wearables and payment gateways without any downtime for the customer.
Media and entertainment
The greatest potential for 5G lies in media and entertainment. 5G can enable the streaming of live sporting events to create new interactive experiences. The gaming industry is also looking forward to utilising the 5G potential for cloud gaming, VR-AR, live streaming and immersive gaming. The use of immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality is likely to increase significantly in the 5G era, especially because 5G can remove data processing from equipment, spurring the production of cheaper and more lightweight headsets that can be used wherever there is 5G connectivity. Specific areas of interest for VR/AR solutions include training, safety, quality assurance and retail sales support.
Oil and gas
Enterprises in the oil and gas sector are also adopting private 5G networks, as many of their facilities are located outside the range of commercial networks. For instance, Accenture has been working with AT&T to deploy a private LTE network, upgradeable to 5G, at a refinery for Phillips. Similarly, Vodafone Idea will be building a private LTE network, upgradeable to 5G, for Centrica Storage Limited (CSL), the gas storage and processing unit of UK Centrica. The new private cellular network at Centrica’s Easington facility in County Durham will use Ericsson radio and core networking equipment.
Other important applications for private 5G networks are in the logistics sector. These are used in monitoring, tracking and sorting shipments integrated with inventory systems. 5G can help in improving the throughput of these facilities. The global enterprise business in first-, second- and third-party logistics is looking at the deployment of private wireless networks for seamless indoor and outdoor low-latency connectivity. Further, private 5G networks enable ports and airports to connect all devices and people across vast areas to one single network. Fully autonomous 5G private networks provide ports and airports future-ready platforms for digitalisation and automation. This ensures continuity of business-critical operations, full control over moving assets and data privacy.
The retail industry stands to gain substantially by leveraging 5G technology. 5G has the potential to help brick-and-mortar retail stores engage better with their customers and offer them integrated, personalised and immersive shopping experiences. Modern retail logistics are heavily reliant on internet-based functions such as package tracking, which are more reliable with 5G networks. Inventory distortion can also be improved with mass communication capabilities and IoT sensors, which again can function properly only when supported with 5G connectivity. Moreover, industry reports suggest that with the coming in of 5G, checkout lines may soon be rendered obsolete for brick-and-mortar shops. 5G will allow customers to scan labels directly on their smartphones and pay instantly for items.
5G promises to be a tremendous enabler with its low latency, particularly in making the deployment of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and consumer robotics a realistic proposition. As such, the enhanced connectivity offered by 5G is expected to attract investments from companies across the world.
According to a study by Deloitte India, 5G is a priority technology for 80 per cent of Indian enterprises. Further, around 98 per cent of Indian executives believe that 5G and/or Wi-Fi 6 will transform their businesses in the next five years, while 88 per cent believe that the transformation will occur within the next three years. The study also noted that 5G is preferred by 53 per cent of executives for outdoor use cases. According to the report, around 39 per cent of Indian enterprises are expected to invest around $10 million-$50 million for wireless technology enhancement in their organisations.