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Why 5G Matters – Now!

5G is a technology to take mobile service providers beyond communication, into new modes of business, and now is the time to get with the program.

Gabriel Brown

April 9, 2015

3 Min Read
Why 5G Matters – Now!

The advent of 5G will affect everything -- every industry, every service provider and every person on the planet.

That, in one line, is why we're hosting Light Reading's inaugural 5G event, Building America's 5G Ecosystem, in New York this Tuesday, April 14.

If you're serious about the future of mobility, and networking, you know that understanding next-generation technology, and service and revenue models, is important -- that's obvious. (See Heavy Reading Q&A: Getting to the Heart of 5G .)

But with 4G technology about to enter into its prime productive years, and with 5G some distance from actually existing, you're probably asking yourself: Why does 5G matter to me? And why now? (See 5G: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?)

Well, here are three HUGE reasons why:

1. New use-cases and the Industrial Internet
The mobile industry has had a great run -- no question about it. Mobility has transformed how we access and consume online services and is now embedded in our everyday workflow. In fact, we may even be approaching "peak mobile." Certainly, we're past the point where mobile is disruptive to the networking sector.

If we look at how mobility and wireless can transform adjacent industries, however, it is clear we're only at the beginning. Ordering a taxi on a mobile app might seem amazing, but really it isn't. There is the potential to do so much more. Think ambient video, virtual reality, remote surgery, device-to-device communications, smart cities, self-driving cars, ultra-reliable public safety or hyper-scale sensor networks.

It is these Industrial Internet services that are driving the very diverse and extremely ambitious 5G technology requirements. This isn't about your battered old iPhone.

2. An opportunity to shape 5G
Working out how proposed 5G performance requirements -- expressed as throughput, latency, reliability, resiliency, power efficiency and scalability -- can be implemented (if at all) is a Herculean task. This is why there's so much uncertainty about what 5G actually is, and from a technology perspective, why it is so interesting.

The next three years are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape not just new global standards, but what could become the dominant access network architecture. The researchers and technologists who will actually define and create 5G are a rarefied elite, but even for the rest of us, an awareness of the priorities, decisions and trade-offs is professionally extremely valuable. With the potential for an "early drop" of 5G standards by 2018 (to satisfy the Korean and Japanese timelines), key decisions with potentially long-lasting impact are already under debate.

5G is a technology (set of technologies?) to take mobile service providers beyond communication, into new modes of business. Now is the time to get with the program.

3. To define a migration strategy
One challenge is to work out where 4G ends and 5G begins. We know 4G capabilities will be extended far beyond what we have today, and it's a safe bet that 5G ambitions will be scaled-back considerably as time goes on.

Inevitably, then, there will be overlap in use-cases (substantial) and technology (perhaps less so) between 4G Advanced and 5G, and plotting a migration strategy will be difficult. For some it will be prudent to sit and wait, and see what turns up. But in 4G we saw that fortune favored the brave -- those operators and vendors that were early to invest and deploy at scale captured market share -- and in 5G we can expect the same.

For others in the value chain, the strategy will be different, of course. Larger operators typically see their role as helping to generate requirements and encouraging the supply chain to invest in technology development, whereas for the silicon providers, test providers, major system vendors and disruptive startups, the time to act is, unequivocally, right now.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gabriel Brown

Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

Gabriel leads mobile network research for Heavy Reading. His coverage includes system architecture, RAN, core, and service-layer platforms. Key research topics include 5G, open RAN, mobile core, and the application of cloud technologies to wireless networking.

Gabriel has more than 20 years’ experience as a mobile network analyst. Prior to joining Heavy Reading, he was chief analyst for Light Reading’s Insider research service; before that, he was editor of IP Wireline and Wireless Week at London's Euromoney Institutional Investor.

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