Deployment of 5G in the U.S. has exploded, with far faster adoption than the prior generation of wireless technology. Matching the scope of these strides is the runway for its utility – one that remains long and untapped for greenfield applications that leverage its deep capabilities to bring efficiencies to the enterprise.
When considering 5G and how swiftly it’s been adopted, just compare it to 4G’s trajectory. The chart below showcases just how sensationally 5G has performed, despite the pandemic when development slowed. The technology’s growth in the first 12 quarters since it was launched exceeded 4G’s subscriber ramp-up -- which took 33 quarters -- making 5G subscriber adoption three times faster than what was experienced during the early days of the 4G cycle.
Given this broad and rapid scale of adoption, the U.S. has now entered the maturation phase in which new devices and applications are proliferating. And by the end of 2023, the big three telecom operators in the U.S. will have covered a vast majority of the country with both mid-band spectrum and high-speed (i.e., mmWave) deployments, the latter of which will principally serve enterprises. It’s in these enterprise environments where development is early in the life cycle but the roadmap for innovation is compelling. New use cases will flourish. Industries can expect significant benefits from these deployments. A few of these merit a closer look.
Manufacturing is a prime use cases for 5G because of the multiple scenarios that call for support on a factory floor that include operating robots, and tracking and monitoring objects, machines and humans. 5G will also optimize the wireless connectivity needed for computer vision, AR/VR, digital twin and much more.
There is also a growing drive to reduce emissions in manufacturing and the supply chain. By automating repeatable functions, carbon emissions can be reduced while output is improved. Factories are further exploring the deployment of private 5G networks to wirelessly connect IoT sensors and machines in the factory, which is necessary to continuously maintain the bandwidth delivery and latency requirements of each element on the floor.
In-hospital evaluations and surgical procedures are areas ripe for transformation through 5G. Hospitals will become data centers, with 5G-powered and AI-enabled automation searching for diagnostic patterns before treatments may be needed. Additionally, remote VR surgery is no longer just a fanciful demo to promote 5G but is helping to transform the field of surgery and how novice surgeons are trained.
5G will allow operating rooms to be configured with far fewer wires, allowing for gigabit-per-second speed that is free of interference and provides extremely low latency. This will be critical for transmitting data via VR and head-mounted devices in the operating room, rendering high-resolution images, overlaying real-time data within the surgeon’s view, and facilitating telesurgical platforms that require high-speed, low-latency data transfer for surgeons worldwide to have real-time interactions.
Entertainment is a natural fit for 5G due to higher bandwidth and lower latency needs. As new VR headsets are released with embedded 5G, they can be untethered in outdoor settings. The key areas in which 5G can make a difference are VR streaming and games, cloud gaming, AR games and experiences (e.g., Pokémon GO, Snapchat), volumetric video and holographics.
Industry is also in the early stages of formulating the framework for the metaverse. Regardless of where this framework will be in five to 10 years, the need for bandwidth and lower latency will be critical in metaverse design and content delivery. The relationship between the metaverse and 5G is fundamental, and some of its intensely immersive experiences will, at the very least, require more spectrum and deeper latency reductions. Whichever content form eventually dominates the entertainment sector, 5G will be part of the infrastructure fabric that will deliver it.
Over the course of an ecosystem’s evolution, society goes through phases that transform how we think about applications and services, what assumptions we have about performance and capabilities, and how disruption accelerates. This will be the decade in which multiple adjacent technologies — like AI, 5G, edge computing and others — play a significant role in shaping vertical industries. 5G represents a foundational layer that accelerates other curves, and we are seeing that in action today.
Explore what’s new, and what’s next in 5G. CES 2023 is all live this January in Las Vegas. Register today.