All Blogs

5G Is Not Just Another G

Bjorn Andersson Bjorn Andersson
Senior Director, Global Digital Innovation Marketing & Strategy

May 17, 2021

In collaboration with Peter Linder, Head of 5G Marketing for Ericsson in North America

Recently, businesses have expressed a lot of excitement and intrigue around 5G. But what do organizations expect from next-generation connectivity, and how will they overcome the perceived barriers of 5G adoption? That’s what I set out to explore in my recent discussion with the Head of 5G Marketing for Ericsson in North America, Peter Linder. As a top 100 5G influencer, Peter offered a unique insight into the wireless technology poised to create a larger seismic impact than any wireless technology to come before it. From expectations and concerns to plans for implementation and outcomes derived from increased efficiency, this blog illustrates my most significant takeaway from that discussion: 5G has insurmountable potential. Organizations that want to lead in the 5G race have many decisions to make.

We’ve all been trained by television commercials to think about 5G as the next evolution of mobile broadband: faster access to connect our smartphones to our favorite cloud services, especially if we live in a populated city or suburban center.

5G will deliver that, but that use is just the tip of the potential iceberg. Unlike previous generations of “G,” 5G is not just about universal connectivity for consumers. 5G is the connectivity needed for enterprise and mission-critical use that will reliably connect businesses, modernize infrastructure and power economies. 5G enables orders of magnitude more devices of far greater variety to support business digitalization. 4G was an “or” technology that forced a choice to be made where its capabilities would be focused. The decision was made to prioritize consumers as the driving market force.

The Superpower of “AND”

5G is entirely about “and.” It’s hard to overstate the disruptive potential this 5G will enable. Its reach extends to:

  • Supporting the service needs of a much wider variety of consumer AND business users.
  • Delivering different types of access for both mobile AND fixed wireless applications.
  • Meeting demand for a variety of connectivities, including universal, AND business, AND mission-critical.
  • Providing for multiple network types, including both public AND private.
  • Handling broader coverage that spans urban, suburban AND rural settings.

At its heart, 5G’s disruptive potential lies in the complete transformation of how the network is made available, what happens inside the network, and where the many things that we call “the cloud” reside. Amazon provides a helpful metaphor:

Twenty years ago, Amazon was a single warehouse in one city. Customers placed orders from their home computers, and several days later, their book or other ordered item arrived. Today, customers are connected to Amazon from everywhere, they can buy nearly anything, and their purchase may be delivered in as little as an hour. This wasn’t accomplished by building fleets of futuristic rockets that launch products to consumers direct from Seattle. It is the result of putting warehouses closer to where the customers are, to begin with, and then substantially increasing the carrying capacity and efficiency of the delivery network.

This is, in effect, what 5G combined with edge computing will deliver across many industries. It will put the processing close to where it’s needed, delivering services without requiring the end device to change.

A Confluence of Critical Technology

Similarly, we are poised to see this increased efficiency, productivity and automation explode across all aspects of services, production and distribution. The interplay of five technologies that will be worth exploring:

  • 5G will provide the connectivity and the network to connect many more devices.
  • Edge computing will push cloud-based compute capability close to users and data sources, no matter where they are.
  • IoT will be significantly enabled by 5G. Where the rules governing traffic on 4G were primarily designed to allow smartphone traffic, 5G supports a 10X increase in the number of devices each geographical area can support. Twenty-two different types of 5G devices have already been announced, and this is only the beginning of the 5G journey.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is connected to an ever-greater amount of data moving across networks, including sensor data processed by AI either at the edge or centrally. AI will also be vital because it can handle the real-time management of traffic on increasingly complex networks.
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) are for more than entertainment. They make it possible to overcome the limitations of time and space, enabling, for example, an expert in Japan to put on a pair of goggles and interact with a similarly equipped person on location in a factory in Texas. The remote expert can see what the person in Texas is seeing or look around independently, and then provide guidance directly in the field of view or voice, all without the delay of travel.

Putting It All Together: Use Case Categories Enabled by 5G

The possibilities brought forth by 5G are extensive and increasingly make possible a world where the only limitation is imagination and not technology. Here are six business use case applications for you to consider:

  • Immersion is a term that has been casually applied to entertainment technology for years, but 5G is also a legitimate difference-maker for business operations. 5G can reliably deliver 4k resolution and 360-degree experiences.
  • Similarly, the compute demands of AR/VR are best suited to edge processing with delivery via very low latency 5G networks.
  • In the past, the slow development and slow performance of wireless technology have meant that its ability to support new applications was consistently a generation or two behind fixed-wire networks. With 5G, for the first time, that difference is all but erased. This capacity to rapidly support new apps is happening so early in the deployment cycle that new technologies and infrastructure deployment can happen almost immediately, rather than after decades of soaking it in. With its widespread applicability, it will be feasible to deliver 5G even to rural areas far more quickly.
  • If you think the Internet of Things has been impactful to date, just watch. 5G will increase the feasibility of distributing massive numbers of small devices, each of which may generate little traffic and little revenue, but in the aggregate, provide enormous value with each bit of data. For example, an electric utility company would highly value the data from every meter that describes usage levels or from sensors on power poles. Such data could warn about imminent failure so proactive measures can be activated to stop wildfires before they start.
  • It is also reasonable to support IoT devices that generate more traffic than a sensor but less than smartphones. For example, smartwatches with data plans backed by edge-computing-based services and low-latency, high bandwidth networks will be significantly more capable than their 4G or smartphone-dependent brethren.
  • With the performance, availability, reliability and low latency of 5G networks, the ability to support highly critical IoT applications is possible. Whether that entails sending data between cars to prevent accidents or precision-milling a jet engine over 24 hours, 5G brings the complete package to make this dependable.
  • Manufacturing plants today must hardwire all their machines, as Wi-Fi lacks the necessary reliability. 5G delivers the best of two worlds: the flexibility of wireless with the reliability and performance of wires.
  • This makes flexible automation possible to enable manufacturing to return to locales where the high cost of human labor has made it impossible.
  • Video games are becoming a nearly $150 billion global market. But for many users, the need to regularly spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a PC or console capable of processing graphics for the latest titles is a tremendous barrier. By shifting the processing from the local device to an edge-based service, it has become possible to stream these games to a much broader array of affordable devices, even smartphones. This is an important space to watch as it has repeatedly proven to be a bellwether of adoption and market growth across other industries.

With commercial 5G networks already live worldwide, the next wave of 5G expansion will allow organizations to digitalize with more mobility, flexibility, reliability and security. Join Peter and I at the HSIF technical session Get Ready for 5G’s Industry Disruption and Opportunity for a dynamic exchange of ideas around 5G’s true power and potential. From trends and technology drivers to specific use cases, this session will broaden your 5G perspective and offer insights that will change the way you make operational decisions. Register here.

Additionally, for a more holistic view of the end-to-end digital solutions, like AI, cloud computing and industrial IoT technologies that drive sustainability across manufacturing and supply chain functions, be sure to attend Sudhanshu Gaur and Alan Minney’s business session: 5G: Accelerating Transformation for Manufacturing. Register here. These industry experts from Hitachi Vantara and Ericsson, respectively, will weigh in on Hitachi’s data-driven approach to industrial digitization and the unique opportunities that stem from creating a more connected and intelligent enterprise.

Whether companies are ready for it or not, customer demands are constantly evolving, particularly in the industrial sector, where fluctuating needs directly impact the market’s access to products and services. The best way to future-proof your business is through increased resilience, efficiency, transparency and accessibility, and technology is the smartest way to achieve that. As we move toward a more personalized, data-driven tomorrow, the time to invest in the digital connection between our processes, machinery and people is today.

Get a front-row seat to the future of Social Innovation. Join us at the virtual Hitachi Social Innovation Forum on May 25-27. Register here.

Bjorn Andersson is Senior Director, Global Industry Solutions Marketing at Hitachi Vantara.

Peter Linder is a 5G evangelist and Head of 5G Marketing for Ericsson in North America. His professional focus is on anything 5G and digital marketing. Onalytica ranked him as the #1 most influential expert across all tech sector topics on LinkedIn in 2020. He aspires to make you understand 5G more clearly and more in-depth, so you can truly grok 5G and maximize your impact on its use in your company. Peter’s professional career encompasses nearly 30 years at Ericsson, double master’s degrees from Chalmers University, and extensive post-graduate education at Ivy League universities. His pet project is a digital mentoring program with more than 200 episodes released to date.

Bjorn Andersson

Bjorn Andersson

Bjorn has worked in technology development, product management and marketing for +25 years, with a focus on sustainability, digital transformation, analytics, visualization, HPC and IoT. Today, he provides strategic leadership for select industry practices at Hitachi Vantara.