I’ve just come back from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona and it was quite different from last year. A year ago, everybody was talking about 5G, but barely anyone had something to show other than a brochure. This year we saw companies showing devices and equipment, and now are talking about launching to consumers probably next year. Commercial roll-outs will be starting in some locations, such as Sacramento, this year. For sports fans, we’ve been seeing many telecoms providers experimenting with 5G at the Winter Olympics – it’s finally coming out of research and test environments, and into real-world situations. And by 2025, the GSMA, which produces the MWC event, estimates that 5G networks will reach 1.2 billion connections, representing 14% of global mobile connections
While some commentators considered there was too much hype around 5G at this year’s MWC, I disagree. This is not only an improvement in the communication industry, but it will abruptly change not just the whole IT sector, but almost every industry, and the development of so many applications. It is a game changer.
To put this into perspective, in 2018 businesses are focusing on their digital transformations. How can they use the plethora of digital technologies that are either emerging (such as AI and chatbots) and those which are much more mature, such as mobile and social, to provide better products and services to their customers. As businesses continue with these transformations, it’s important to consider what 5G will mean for them.
The impact of 5G is not just about the speed of the network. Perhaps more importantly than the pure speed, it will also impact data storage and how devices are connected to each other. Self-driving cars for instance will rely on these network improvements. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence mean we are now developing more advanced and sophisticated software applications, which will need these network improvements. An excellent article by the digital security company Gemalto, entitled “The Gigabyte Society” described 5G not as a standalone network, but rather “an open platform enabling digital transformation”.
For companies such as Belatrix which specialize in developing mobile apps, to platform providers, to device manufacturers, everything will change. For mobile app developers it means being able to add much more functionality to applications, whether that it augmented reality or 3D technology. Here we’re already seeing innovative companies experiment with the technology – for example, Belatrix implemented augmented reality for a leading fintech company in Latin America, to help provide an innovative way for customers to find the nearest ATM. With 5G, this type of powerful user experience will become the norm, and indeed the expectation of consumers.
From companies wanting to build these types of software products, this is going to become more demanding, as the complexity of these new applications increases. IT security will also become more challenging, and we’ll need improved security protocols, as more and more devices are connected to the network. As a side note, this will mean the demand for highly-qualified developer talent is going to increase significantly in the coming years.
Meanwhile, the advent of 5G will push the internet of things onto steroids. The low latency of 5G means it will be possible to connect many more devices, from connected cars and other IoT devices, to create smart cities. As industries and companies increasingly use more sensors to collect more data and information, 5G makes this possible as the network is faster and more robust. Whether it’s precision medicine, agriculture, to manufacturing, industries rely on data to provide these services. I recommend reviewing the many use cases of 5G, such as those provided by Ericsson or Huawei to get a sense of the transformative impact, from drones which can be used for fire-fighting, to having access to high quality media services anywhere and at any time.
Were you at MWC this year? What was your key takeaway from the event? I look forward to reading your comments!