From gadget launches to network rollouts, there was barely a week in 2019 when 5G wasn’t in the headlines. But now that 2020 is upon us, we can begin to see the reality of 5G technology unfold.
For Scott Petty, chief technology officer of Vodafone UK, it is set to be a particularly important year.
“2020 promises to be a defining year for 5G,” he says.
As one of the leaders in UK 5G, and making considerable moves in other parts of the world around the technology, Vodafone has been keen to cement itself in the space, and there is far more planned for the coming year.
“Vodafone will continue to make 5G available in even more places. Currently, our customers can use 5G in 94 locations across Europe, more than any other UK network,” says Petty.
“Drawing on our large network investments and planning, we are able to support businesses in implementing and adopting 5G and other new technologies such as cloud, SDN, SD-WAN and IoT into their own processes.”
But what benefits will the technology bring?
5G in 2020: Benefits beyond speed
While faster connections are undoubtedly a key feature of 5G connectivity, Petty sees other aspects of the technology as being at least as important when it comes to delivering meaningful benefits.
“Like mobile technological generations before it, 5G promises even faster speeds. But perhaps most importantly, it will reduce latency,” he says.
“This is critical for applications like self-driving cars, remote surgery, gaming and VR/AR that require an instantaneous response. It will also increase bandwidth, catering for a myriad of devices and emerging technologies at once, even where demand is high.”
“Like mobile technological generations before it, 5G promises even faster speeds. But perhaps most importantly, it will reduce latency.”
The industries that can benefit from these advances are, of course, myriad, but Petty highlights two strong use cases where the technology can be applied.
“Healthcare and sports are just two sectors for which 5G promises an exciting future,” he says.
“Imagine paramedics being able to access a real-time, augmented reality video conferencing link with an emergency room or a supporter at a football game receiving match data and frame-by-frame video analysis to their seat. It will bring fans closer to the action and could help resolve some of the controversy surrounding video assistant referee (VAR) decisions.”
Making 5G part of the enterprise technology mix
Away from the headline-grabbing applications, there are also notable benefits across many industries.
“A number of industries will benefit from 5G, including healthcare, manufacturing and the retail sector to name but a few,” he says.
“5G will also be a key enabler in the connection of heavy-duty machinery, robotics and critical equipment requiring rapid response times. The super-low latency of 5G will enable almost instant device-to-device communications for up to a million devices per square kilometre.”
We are also set to see growing numbers of enterprises embrace 5G as part of the wider technology mix.
“As companies look to increase customer loyalty, responsiveness and remain agile in the face of new Internet-based only start-ups, businesses are increasingly turning to cloud services,” he says.
“5G will play a pivotal role in the way businesses operate in the future and lead to many innovations which will have a seismic shift on our society.”
“Earlier this year, we announced a joint venture with IBM which brings together Vodafone’s global connectivity portfolio with IBM’s world-class IT and multi-cloud capability. By combining our core with those of IBM, our customers will have access to a full range of technologies; 5G, IoT, SDN, AI/Watson, multi-cloud and blockchain.
This will mean faster decision making, enhanced automation and personalised experiences for end-users across multiple locations.”
However, as with any technology, the benefits come with their own challenges – an issue that Petty expects to get more pronounced as the decade progresses.
“5G will play a pivotal role in the way businesses operate in the future and lead to many innovations which will have a seismic shift on our society,” he says.
“It is vitally important that we keep social responsibility at the heart of any new technological developments and look at ways these can help reduce our energy consumption and help the most vulnerable people gain independence and financial stability.”
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