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Driving 5G adoption: key success factors and industry opportunities

Sophie James

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Driving 5G adoption:
Key success factors and industry opportunities

Part of today’s digital fabric, 5G creates new ways to address some of the most important challenges of our age. This requires a partnership between telecoms operators and across industries to develop new 5G applications and services.

Consumer use of 5G is growing fast; people around the world have the latest smartphones and can access higher mobile speeds to enhance the way they live and work. For enterprises, the capacity of 5G over 4G presents a fresh opportunity. Its architecture has in-built flexibility and scalability, plus low latency and capabilities to connect millions of devices simultaneously.

Take manufacturing, for example. In essence, 5G can transform the interconnectedness of machines and workers, releasing the potential of vastly increased volumes of data to help optimize smart factory and warehouse operations. Given today’s global supply chain issues, the potential of this is vast. At techUK, we see opportunities for a global initiative with the manufacturing industry to address how 5G could enable more resilient and intelligent supply chains.

Global and local frameworks

With the rollout and use of 5G inevitably involving multinational companies and markets, it is important that 5G network standards are devised at a global level. Organizations such as 3GPP and the International Telecoms Union are active in this. A number of events and symposiums provide vital forums for the telecoms sector to collaborate on developing standards and regulations, like the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference in 2023.

Spectrum must all be managed nationally and internationally. Part of national regulators’ remit is to determine which bands can be used by each network operator (and their customers). Regulatory frameworks vary; in the UK, for example, Ofcom, as a regulator has been active in introducing a new licensing model that provides local access to specific bands for indoor deployment. Enterprises can then apply for a license to use these bands for a smart factory, port, venue, and so on.

Evolving 5G ecosystem

It’s worth noting that when techUK and our members talk about the evolving 5G ecosystem, we see this as encompassing WiFi and satellite. We take a technology-neutral approach. Some of the benefits of 5G for some enterprises can also be met by WiFi 6. Satellite, too, has come a long way, offering high speed, reliability, and connectivity; non-terrestrial capability can be part of the mix, for instance, in remote areas where terrestrial coverage isn’t yet available.

Through this ecosystem, the very latest technological advances are now available for greater efficiency, enabling digital transformation and helping to make enterprises safer, more secure, more efficient, and reliable. Growth in the private 5G network market is key; the use of 5G in different countries will also depend on the availability of virtualized digital infrastructures, devices, and handsets for different spectrum bands.

Sustainability ambitions

Yet it’s clear that 5G has important advantages to offer in the short term. Crucially, we’ve seen the significant impact of Covid-19 and the accelerated digital transformation that has happened as a result, including increased demand for cloud-based services. We’re also in the midst of a climate emergency in which citizens and organizations are increasingly cognisant of the scarcity of resources and challenges of delivering the net zero agenda.

5G can make an important impact here. Increased data collection and analytics, powered by 5G, can help enterprises with vital operational efficiencies. In agriculture, as an example, 5G-enabled precision applications and technologies that use real-time data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the edge can help with the intelligent and sustainable use of resources, minimizing the impact on the environment.

And there are many other examples across the global economy. Thanks to the capacity and speed of 5G, there are applications and ambitions that governments, industry, and communities can achieve together that simply weren’t possible with previous networks.

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