In the last few years, 5G took the world by storm. The fifth generation of communications took a long time, but it delivered on promises of superior speeds, lower latencies, and overall better cell service.
According to Omdia, 5G networks worldwide added 225 million subscribers between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020. That’s impressive considering the disastrous effect of the pandemic on global deployment and that 4G LTE networks took four years to attain the same number of subscribers.
For now, 5G is the new communications standard, but what lays ahead for the technology? And why all the hype around the possibilities 5G open up?
It’s here, but underdevelopment none-the-less
With speeds up to the gigabit neighborhood and latencies below 10ms, current 5G implementations are far superior to what was possible with 4G.
According to a report by Ookla’s SpeedTest.net in summer 2021, the median 5G download speeds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia exceeded 384Mbps, and five GCC capitals ranked in the top 10 of the world capitals with the highest 5G speeds.
Meanwhile, at the IFA 2021, Deutsche Telekom tested a 5G network that reached a measured speed of 3Gbps. Lab tests done by Nokia reached speeds upward of 4.5Gbps. Both instances allude to the possibility of +10Gbps 5G networks in the coming years.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has set the theoretical top data speed for 5G to be up to 20Gbps. Reaching that limit is unlikely, but it’s a goal to consider as future 5G advances further.
More connected things
The IoT field is rapidly growing today. Smart homes and cities are popping everywhere, and 5G is a huge part of current and future IoT growth. 5G allows for more concurrent connected devices with stable connections, so many IoT devices are relying on 5G now instead of traditional wired and wireless local area networks.
5G-enabled phones are quickly taking over too, as midrange and even lower-end chipsets are starting to support the technology. A report by J.P. Morgan estimates 5G-enabled phones sales to have reached 225 million units in 2020, and forecasts 525 and 725 million units sold in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
This effect of the new communication standard is more pronounced in the mobility field. More cars, trucks, and other vehicles are on the road, and Allied Market Research forecasts the connected car segment to hit $225bn by 2027.
5G is revolutionary for connected mobility as it supports more connections that allow for remote fleet management. On the other hand, it offers higher speeds and lower latencies, allowing for next-level car entertainment.
The manufacturing of tomorrow
According to Allied Market Research, the industrial 5G segment was valued at $12.47bn in 2020, and it’s set to grow to $140.88bn by 2030. That shows a promising future for 5G beyond being a cell network, as the specifications of 5G allow for specialized local networks that some companies are leveraging today to build smart manufacturing machines.
The German giant Rexroth Bosch is one of the pioneers of industrial 5G, as the company is building 5G-enabled robots and advanced manufacturing equipment. The idea is to use 5G for industrial IoT devices, thus allowing for modular production lines. The reliability and low latency of 5G make it a real replacement for traditional wired networks, but 5G offers more freedom and modularity.
Why is 5G crucial to Saudi Arabia’s digital future?
As Saudi Arabia follows its vision 2030, it plans to diversify its economy away from oil and the public sector. Thus, the kingdom is heavily investing in smart cities, smart manufacturing, and other tech-related sectors.
The current direction of Saudi Arabia makes 5G a cornerstone for the country’s digital economy. That largely explains why the country invested enough in 5G infrastructure to be one of the most 5G-enabled nations today.
For now, the oil and gas industry still makes up 30 percent of the kingdom’s economy and stands to gain a lot from 5G. ADL estimated that 5G-enabled IoT devices used in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry can generate upwards of 1.5 terabytes per day, and the use of data analytics both enables savings and increases well productivity by 30 percent.
6G is on the horizon
Looking at the long development time for 5G, it’s safe to say that it is indeed the communication standard for the decade. Current and future 5G standards are yet to show their full potential and are sure to up-end many industries as coverage grows. But since now many companies and research institutions have their eyes on the future sixth generation.
Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, and Samsung have shown interest in developing 6G communications. Ericsson lately entered into an initial three-year research and development (R&D) partnership with King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST).
The partnership between Ericsson and KAUST aims to use machine learning and other technologies to advance telecommunication networks with innovative technologies. The two parties will also focus on exploring the unstandardized 6G and the possibilities to utilize the terahertz spectrum to achieve higher internet speeds.
All in all, the 5G revolution is here, and it’s a stepping stone for the technologies and advancements that enable the coming fourth industrial revolution.