What we can expect from the 5G economy

Presented by Ericsson

5G, the latest generation of mobile wireless, has been hyped as a game-changing technology that will unlock new innovations across industries. Now that 5G networks are beginning to roll out across the United States and Canada — by the end of 2025, there will be close to 325 million 5G subscriptions in North America — we are starting to see new innovations come to life as the blazing speed, low latency, and ultra-reliability of 5G opens new possibilities.

But we need to think beyond incremental improvements to existing industries. 5G isn’t just faster than 4G; it’s a new platform that will enable an entirely new economy. Industry trade group GSMA predicts that 5G technology will add $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years. Much of that economic activity will be in new sectors we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.

5G will take the app economy to the next stage

It’s worth revisiting how 4G, the previous generation of mobile broadband, spurred a tech economy that was based, in part, on capabilities that weren’t present at all in 3G. Companies like Uber and Instacart were only made possible by location services and more reliable connections. While 3G introduced data for smaller data-consuming applications like email and social media, the exponentially increased data capabilities of 4G unlocked an entirely new “app economy” of mobile-specific businesses and services.

5G will bring that same kind of new explosion for developers, built on 5G’s unique and groundbreaking properties, as well as continued growth in smartphone ownership. We’re currently building the innovation platform and working toward better 5G network coverage. The next step will be to bring together service providers, industry, and developer ecosystems to allow the next generation of entrepreneurs to build apps and services enabled by 5G — the 5G economy.

Low-latency will power exciting new use cases

We don’t know exactly what the 5G economy will look like, and that’s what makes it so exciting. But there are a few “near term” use cases that will be built mostly on smart phones and fixed wireless internet. Other more visionary applications are a few years away, and will rely on private networks and more widely available outdoor networks.

A few specific examples of technologies that are possible today:

  • Gaming: With 5G’s speed and low latency, the bulk of processing power can live in the cloud, known as edge computing. This will have a transformational impact on gaming, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality. VR headsets will be set free from cords and game graphics will be seamless and higher resolution than ever before. 5G could also produce real tactical experiences where gamers receive haptic feedback and enjoy streaming of more complex and graphic heavy games to mobile devices.
  • New video experiences: Those same edge computing capabilities will also enable advances in video technologies beyond gaming, like 3D space capture. Companies will be able to build realistic 3D environments for educational purposes, like virtual tours, or even remote maintenance and city planning.
  • Fixed mobile broadband: Fixed wireless access is a way to provide wireless internet access to homes or businesses without laying fiber and cables. This will unlock a world of opportunity for the 5G economy by bringing high quality internet to areas inaccessible by other methods and untethering devices from WiFi. Fixed wireless access connections are forecast to reach close to 160 million by the end of 2025, so it could represent a sea change in how people connect to the internet.

A few examples of what the 5G economy could bring:

  • Autonomous vehicles: Driverless transportation is another example of a technology that 5G makes possible, thanks to the superior connectivity. While it’s still a few years away from breaking out of the “pilot” phase, when widespread 5G networks and connected smart cities provide the infrastructure, driverless cars at fleet scale could change the shipping and transportation industries.
  • Drones and robots: Cellular-connected drones could be deployed for automated inspection of critical infrastructure, such as roads and highways, bridges, buildings, power stations, nuclear reactors, electrical grids, power dams, railways, pipelines, and cell towers. Drones could also be deployed in mission-critical healthcare applications such as delivering defibrillators to remote locations unreachable by ambulance — saving lives in situations where every second counts.

One thing is for certain: The next great tech unicorn will be powered by 5G. Once the next generation of mobile wireless reaches a critical adoption point, it will power a new economy — the possibilities are endless.

Peter Linder is 5G Evangelist at Ericsson North America.

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