By Sundar Iyer, Director, Riverbed Technology, India
The race to 5G is on and new developments are being reported on a daily basis. According to the global wireless trade group GSMA by 2025, 1.2 billion people are set to have access to 5G networks. In a 5G world, you will also be able to increase demands on cloud computing. It will deliver a shot of adrenaline to existing digital transformation efforts, inspiring and supporting new possibilities and making technology even more accessible to everyone. It will accelerate network performance, while increasing capability to create, store and analyse data. The application of technology is what decides its utility.
While 5G networks will bring blazing fast data connections, its application will have huge implications on connected devices across various industries and functions, some of which include:
Connected vehicles – Connected vehicles are those that are capable of communicating, not only with other cars but with the other technologies around. When you’re talking about multi-tonne machines transporting people at high speed, fail-proof connectivity is key. With 5G, the potential is so dramatic that the speed at which connected cars will be able to communicate will not only eliminate safety concerns but also reduce traffic.
Manufacturing and logistics – How we make and distribute the products that we consume is another facet that is set to change. 5G will see IoT devices spreading throughout production systems and supply chains, from the factory floor to roads and from retail stores to a deep ocean oil rig. Sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment will detect subtle changes in conditions that increase the chance of equipment failures, enabling predictive maintenance and improving business resilience and safety. Wireless robots will automate repetitive tasks reducing human intervention and redundancy of labour while also increasing the efficiency of processes. It will be easier to know where goods are and what condition they’re in, thereby, reducing losses.
Health – The healthcare industry has been traditionally slow to embrace new technology. That said, there are a number of applications being created that offer options that bridge the doctor-patient gap by allowing people access to a variety of services at a substantially lower cost and in a matter of minutes. In the days to come we’ll see more widespread use of health-focused applications, especially those that can’t afford to fail – like tools to assist in remote robotic surgery, where any error or latency could cause serious injury or even death. The opportunity to increase preventative healthcare measures and enable more remote monitoring, diagnosis and treatment, using 5G will be thrust upon the industry.
Smart cities – The government of India undertook the Smart City Mission to cover 100 cities in a span of five years (2015-2020). We’re not just talking about buses and street lights that can communicate, interpret and adapt to the world around them. Even the roads will become digitised. Water and power grids will be embedded with sensors that make them more efficient. From our mobile phones, to our homes and the cities we live in, the world is making steady progress in its march towards smart, and India will not be left behind. Liveability, convenience and environmental benefits, all forecast a growth in the smart cityscape as 5G enables data-driven, real-time adaptability.
Retail – Retailers are looking at the potential to enable a completely different in-store experience, providing recommendations and pricing that adapts to specific interests and tastes. 5G technology is one of the pillars that is transforming retail into a ‘phygital’ experience. Connected AR/VR devices that combine the personalized experience of the past with the savvy customers of the future to deliver a richer customer experience.
Each of these uses requires quite different types of connectivity. Qualcomm recently reported that its first 5G modem, Snapdragon X50, supports speeds up to five gigabits per second which is 257+ times faster than the average speed of the fastest LTE network. Its faster speed, higher bandwidth, ultra-low latency and reduced power requirements make it ideal for a variety of technologies including real-time applications, pervasive IoT and high-speed data to battery-powered devices like virtual reality headsets. Rather than the traditional public network that does its best to service the needs of various users, network splicing on 5G architecture will enable more intelligent connectivity tailored for specific industrial uses.
Preparing for the impact
Fifth-generation (5G) telecommunication services, which can create an economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, are expected to be launched in the country by 2020. India can accelerate the 5G dividend and potentially also become an innovator in 5G applications by embracing it as the inevitable future, in the present. 5G is also likely to strengthen the suite of enterprise services for telcos by providing a more agile and efficient network with the ability to meet various demand and on-demand requirements through network slicing, virtualization, software-defined networking, mobile edge computing and cloud.
Existing networks are struggling to keep up with the technology demands of today, let alone tomorrow. Installing 5G on current networks would be like putting the latest Formula One tyres on a 15-year-old family car.
A software-defined, cloud-centric platform is a necessity in a 5G world, when the sheer number of applications and devices on the network will explode. It allows administrators to focus policies directly at the network edge, where IoT applications reside; it will allow them to manage the complexity and ensure business continuity.
Even with 5G’s advanced capabilities, monitoring the performance of applications is vital to realising value. In fact, it’s even more important as more applications mean more ways for something to go wrong.
Visibility is key to delivering great app performance. Is it the app or the network? Is it user error? By providing the visibility into every corner of the network and the flexibility to scale resources in minutes, instead of months, these cloud-based platforms become proactive and responsive, as well as resilient. Taking full advantage of the data being collected will support rapid investigation and resolution of issues.
While the introduction of 5G may well be one of the most significant technological advancements of this decade, making the most of applications, devices and data also requires a change in your network infrastructure. Is yours ready?