March 19, 2020

GSMA: '5G Has Arrived – but 4G Is Still King'

According to a report authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research and consulting arm of the GSMA, a UK-based trade organization, "5G will drive future innovation and economic growth, delivering greater societal benefit than any previous mobile generation and allowing new digital services and business models to thrive."

The Mobile Economy 2020 further explains: "Many countries have already launched 5G, but widespread commercial 5G services are expected in the post-2020 period, which will mark the start of the 5G era. 5G is developing in parallel with rapid advancements in both AI [artificial intelligence] and IoT [Internet of Things]; the combination of these technologies will have a large positive impact, spawning innovations for consumers and enterprises defined by highly contextualized, on-demand and personalized experiences."

As highlighted in this press release, GSMA Intelligence's report reveals that:

"5G has arrived – but 4G is still king: 4G was the world's dominant mobile technology last year, supporting more than half (52 percent) of global connections. Despite the emergence of 5G, 4G will continue to grow over the coming years, increasing to account for 56 percent of connections by 2025.

"The industry is investing heavily in 5G: Mobile operators are expected to spend $1.1 trillion worldwide between 2020 and 2025 in mobile CAPEX, roughly 80 percent of which will be on 5G networks.

"The smartphone is becoming ubiquitous: Smartphones are forecast to account for four of every five connections by 2025, up from 65 percent in 2019.

"IoT will be an integral part of the 5G era: Between 2019 and 2025, the number of global IoT connections will more than double to almost 25 billion, while global IoT revenue will more than triple to $1.1 trillion.

"Subscriber growth is slowing, but the industry still has people to connect: The number of unique mobile subscribers at the end of last year stood at 5.2 billion (67 percent of the population) and is forecast to grow to 5.8 billion by 2025 (70 percent).

"Half the planet connected to the mobile internet: Almost half of the global population (3.8 billion people) are now mobile internet users, forecast to reach 61 percent (5 billion) by 2025."

Regarding connected devices, "The business case for IoT is shifting from just connecting devices to addressing specific problems or needs with solutions to collect, process and integrate data from multiple sources, which can then be analyzed to create value and provide actionable insight." Furthermore, "Enterprise IoT connections will overtake consumer in 2024, and will almost triple between 2019 and 2025 to reach 13.3 billion. This will account for just over half of all IoT connections in 2025.

"Consumer IoT connections will almost double to 11.4 billion in the same time frame. More and more devices include connectivity built in by default and interoperability within the ecosystem is increasing."

The report also explains that smart manufacturing and autonomous cars are important verticals for 5G and presents the following use cases for the former:

Robots and robotics
  • 5G increasingly complements Wi‑Fi in factories
  • Real-time AI-powered robot collaboration and integration
  • Cloud-based wireless robotics

Labor augmentation
  • 5G and AI-powered industrial AR, enabling workforce training and augmenting human skills
  • High precision simulations of human-machine interactions in various manufacturing situations

Remote real-time manufacturing
  • Live remote monitoring and reconfiguration of robots and processes
  • Remote quality inspection

Connected operational intelligence and analytics
  • 5G coupled with AI enables real‑time data gathering to inform immediate manufacturing decisions
  • AI-based analytics for processes, inefficiencies and predictive maintenance for robots

On the topic of mobile delivering social impact, the report says: "With more than 5 billion unique subscribers worldwide, and more than 7 billion people covered by a mobile network, mobile is increasingly being used to access an array of life-enhancing services that contribute to and catalyze the achievement of the UN SDGs."

"Despite the global reach of mobile," however, "much more can be done to leverage its power and support the delivery of the SDG 2030 targets. Crucial to this will be helping people realize the full benefits of using mobile and mobile internet services in terms of accessing health information, public services and digital payments, both in developed and developing countries. New technologies that are supported by IoT also need to achieve scale if mobile operators are to maximize their impact on the SDGs – for example, solutions in smart cities that can reduce pollution, and smart buildings and homes that can increase energy efficiency."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

While 4G remains the world's dominant mobile technology, "5G is gaining pace." Companies of all sizes are increasing their research and development budgets to build products and services to utilize the fifth generation wireless technology that is expected to deliver speeds 100x faster than 4G. However, for these investments to produce positive results, the report correctly notes that "Governments and regulators must play their part to help propel 5G into commercial use by implementing policies that encourage advanced technologies (e.g. AI and IoT) to be applied across all economic sectors."

What do you think of the report's findings?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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