Pierre Havenga, the Managing Director for the Middle East and Africa at Vertiv, speaks about the opportunities and challenges involved with the deployment of 5G in the region
Is 5G really ready for mass adoption?
Although it may take years for 5G to overcome 4G’s domination in the market, its improvements to speed, capacity, latency, and market penetration make 5G an opportunity many telecommunications operators can’t and won’t refuse.
DELOITTE Global predicts that 2019 will be the year in which fifth-generation (5G) wide-area wireless networks arrive in scale.
There were 72 operators testing 5G in 2018, and by the end of 2019, we expect 25 operators to have launched 5G service in at least part of their territory (usually cities) with another 26 operators to launch in 2020, more than doubling the total. Further, we expect about 20 handset vendors to launch 5G-ready handsets in 2019 (with the first available in Q2), and about 1 million 5G handsets (out of a projected 1.5 billion smartphone handsets sold in 2019) to be shipped by year’s end.
One million 5G modems (also known as pucks or hotspots) will be sold, and around a million 5G fixed wireless access devices will be installed. At the end of 2020, we expect 5G handset sales (15–20 million units) to represent approximately 1 percent of all smartphone sales, with sales taking off in 2021, the first year in which retailers will sell more than 100 million 5G handsets. The most noticeable benefits of these first 5G networks for users will be faster speeds than today’s 4G technology: peak speeds of gigabits per second (Gbps), and sustainable speeds estimated to be in the hundreds of megabits per second (Mbps).
What benefits does 5G bring along for end-users?
In 2019 and 2020, 5G wireless technology will have three major applications that will enable the content providers to stretch the interface look and feel and become a more fluid immersive environment for the user. First, 5G will be used for truly mobile connectivity, mainly by devices such as smartphones.
Second, 5G will be used to connect “less mobile” devices, mainly 5G modems or hotspots: dedicated wireless access devices, small enough to be mobile, that will connect to the 5G network and then connect to other devices over Wi-Fi technology. Finally, there will be 5G fixed-wireless access (FWA) devices, with antennas permanently mounted on buildings or in windows, providing a home or business with broadband in place of a wired connection.
How will 5G revolutionize Industry 4.0, Smart Cities and Automation?
According to 451 Research, 5G will be the most impactful and difficult network upgrade ever faced by the telecom industry; it is part of the complex ‘digital transformation’ movement encompassing IT/network convergence and radical changes in how software is created and deployed. Those that can thrive in this period of change will create a new class of telecom operator with value-creation capabilities that far exceed anything we’ve seen in the past couple of decades.
The fourth stage of the Industrial Revolution, also termed Industry 4.0, is the next era in industrial production, which will be largely dependent upon advanced mobile wireless communications machine to machine. 5G is an ecosystem for technology and business innovation with a massive portfolio of applications and their equally widespread requirements such as high reliability, ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and mobility. Some of the newer features that will boost the development of Industry 4.0 include cloud platforms, analytics, system automation, and network slicing technologies, as well as new business models.
5G networks are pushing computer resources closer than ever to the end-user and driving numerous new business models, services, innovation, and applications. These IT resources at the edge and an excess of new mobile devices (even smarter phones, tablets, wearables, IoT devices, smarter cars/transportation, etc.) are the building blocks for an upcoming wave of smart cities and increasingly smart technology for use cases such as digital healthcare, smart security, autonomous vehicles, and other futuristic but achievable applications.
What are the key security concerns surrounding 5G?
According to National Security Agency, with the current level of security technology, 5G data throughout would require massive server farms running intrusion scanners and packet inspectors just to keep up with the nominal state of a network. In addition, signaling for connection setup between heterogeneous connections and handover in distributed data networks will make session monitoring difficult.
While it is clear that enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) is the simplest security case for 5G, even it will not be a simple undertaking—much work will be required to ensure that users and networks can be kept safe despite the huge amounts of data that need to be carried at breakneck speeds.
Ensuring a secure network will require not only new technology, as with eMBB, but entirely new paradigms for how security is considered within the network. IoT networks, for example, will require large numbers of devices to communicate with each other, likely without a central coordinator.
What sort of challenges can companies face when deploying 5G services and networks?
There are several challenges that companies potentially can face when deploying 5G services and networks. Firstly, to support 5G, foundational site-level infrastructure will require enhancements, upgrades, and expansion. Connecting 5G sites will also require an overhaul (such as time and money) while offering new business opportunities for transport and interconnection service providers.
Secondly, once the infrastructure is deployed, whether in a small data center central office remodeled as a data center, at a cell tower, point of presence those locations must have access to high-quality network connectivity. For 5G to run successfully, certain updates will need to be made to enable improved connectivity – this could mean adding physical infrastructure or virtualizing existing physical infrastructure.
Finally, 5G demands the need for remote management via Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) because the sheer quantity of higher endpoints will be difficult to manage via regular human visits.
What sort of revenue growth opportunity does 5G represent today?
For 5G to be profitable and worthwhile, certain advancements and adjustments need to be made regarding how networks and data centers are managed. 5G connectivity requires a significant amount of energy of run, especially after additional technologies are installed to manage and dictate the direction of energy.
5G is only a platform for services to be built upon as it is a tool to enable speed, increase the number of connections and expand the amount of data traffic flowing across it. The services which will run over that platform are largely in the incubation stage, and while we recognise they will come, we do not yet have clarity on their societal impact.
In 2020, worldwide 5G wireless network infrastructure revenue will reach $4.2 billion, an 89% increase from 2019 revenue of $2.2 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. Additionally, Gartner forecasts that investments in 5G network infrastructure will account for 6% of the total wireless infrastructure revenue of communications service providers (CSPs) in 2019 and that this figure will reach 12% in 2020.
However, according to recent research conducted by Strategy Analytics, it entails that any growth in 5G will be slow for the next 18 months before the technology gains strong momentum in 2021 as network coverage improves, phone prices fall, and use cases mature. This mirrors the growth we saw of 4G where between 2012 and 2018, 4G grew from 4% of all mobile subscriptions to 61% globally, but service revenue increased by less than 1%, according to the firm’s research.