GSMA Intelligence forecasts that the number of 5G connections globally will reach 1.3 billion by 2025, covering 40 percent of the world’s population or approximately 2.7 billion people. At that time, the Americas region is expected to account for over 260 million 5G connections or 20 percent of the global market.
The question everyone is asking in telco last couple of years is – do we really need 5G? Do we really need that throughput for our voice, video and messaging services? Can we significantly improve real-time communication services so that customers would be willing to pay for it? RCS aka Advanced Messaging is a great example of how difficult it can be to find the right business model for new technologies. EVS supported in 4G is more than what we need for voice calling. Although video calling is possible in 4G, not that many customers are using this option on their mobile devices. More popular than video is desktop-sharing, collaboration and communication in context. Well, lower latency and better throughput can be useful – but is it a reason strong enough to invest into the new 5G infrastructure, when collaboration applies mainly to fixed networks?
5G Drivers. Source GSMA
Still there are real-time communication applications which require low latency and huge amount of data so that 4G is not enough. Virtual Reality (VR) applications like 360-degree video will necessitate higher resolutions of 8K and above, and stereoscopic video (which separates left and right eye views in VR) also requires additional bandwidth. When most people hear about 3D video, holograms, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), they mostly think about gaming. And yes, gaming can be a good example and people like to spend money for entertainment. But there are other examples, where AR and VR can make a difference.
I like statistics. Sometimes it can be misleading or data can be hard to interpret. But it can help us when we struggle to see the forest for the trees.
The last two years the IP-based mobile technologies were booming. If you are working with 4G networks you know it well. This year however the number of new deployments decreased significantly (Sep 2017, source GSMA).
IP Deployments Sep-17
Well, there can be many reasons for that. Rather than guessing, let’s have a fun and take a look on how popular are some telco topics on Google in the last 3 years.
Nearly every time I read some article about the Internet of Things I feel that common folks have to think we are completely nuts 🙂 Do we really believe that we’ll control temperature in room via sensors in our cloths? Or that my fridge will communicate with my wash-machine and my microwave oven, monitoring my GPS and getting ready when they’ll notice I’m coming home? It reminds me the programs for 8-bit computers which were making lists of what you needed to buy in supermarket …
And still the IoT is reality. The IoT, or M2M if you want, is not about bringing the Internet to the devices but on contrary making smarted devices which need the Internet in order to behave even smarter (enough of ‘smart’, I promise). A few years ago if we wanted to connect some device (e.g. for SCADA, telemetry, etc.) into our information system we would need to have a traditional radio network. Later it was possible to add a GSM module. Now the price of devices is low and with LTE or in future with 5G network in place the data is not a problem. Just for a fun I can buy a cheap Raspberry Pi and interconnect with LTE module. And indeed, the M2M traffic is now the 2nd biggest source of revenue after the data for many mobile operators. The next year it can be the number one.
Devices online per 100 inhabitants, OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 – © OECD 2015
Of course, LTE is not the only one. For LTE-A an energy use and cost still remain concerns. More and more we can hear about alternative approaches such as Low Power Wide-area (LPWA) networking or Li-Fi.
IoT is not about standards (now)
The IoT is here already. It doesn’t wait for OMA (OMA_LWM2M), GSMA standards (GSMA IoT web) or Atis (5G Reimagined: A North American Perspective). This can be a surprise for some T1 operators. IoT is what we call ‘enterprise’. It’s like with the web applications. We don’t need to integrate them. They are (firstly) created ad-hoc to fix a problem. If you can’t do it fast, someone else can. Remember the drones? After the military usage one of the very first industries which started to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) was surprisingly agriculture. Farmers didn’t care about how cool it was neither what were the standards. They saw that it could help them with their existing problems. Btw. the agriculture is one of the IoT early adopters too.