Crucial steps on the road to 5G

5G technology has the potential to change dramatically the world we live in. The 5G vision of a fully-connected digital society will fundamentally change both the private and commercial lives of each and every one of us.

On the private or societal side, it will provide us with the tools to, at least, partially tackle some of the major issues of our times, such as ageing populations, increasing urbanisation, environmental protection and global warming, in an integrated and automated way, considering the needs of the individual and the benefits to society as a whole.

While on the commercial side, by bringing digitisation to many new sectors, 5G will act as the lifeblood of the next industrial wave, dramatically improving productivity through better connectivity, processes and services. 5G will enable big data to flow in such a way that the necessary information will be available to us anywhere when we need it, to support all important decisions.

Still a number of barriers to 5G to overcome

This vision of a world-changing network communication technology is compelling, and explains the current interest and expectations associated with this technology. However, for this vision and potential to be achieved, a number of barriers and obstacles are yet to be overcome.

Some of these obstacles are technological. 5G is currently still in its infancy. The first working versions of the standard have been created and the first products have been delivered, but this is by no means the end of the story. 5G technology will continue to develop for many years to come and many new features will be needed to realise the 5G vision.

Likewise, there are a number of regulatory issues, such as the availability of spectrum and new regulations for the building of the 5G base stations, that are required to enable a smooth rollout of this technology. Finally, the industry needs to identify use-cases and a solid return on investment for 5G to be a commercial success.

Why it’s worth taking the time to roll out 5G properly

Much of the potential of 5G technology is beyond the current classical telecoms market with its focus on smartphones and teenagers. The promise of 5G is to digitise all industrial segments and provide compelling new services. Examples of these vertical industries considering digitisation are automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, smart cities, media and agriculture.

However, to be successful in these new domains, it is essential to work together with these vertical sectors and demonstrate 5G technology provides a compelling solution to their future needs. With this in mind, for Europe, it is perhaps not key to deploy 5G first, but rather to deploy 5G best. In other words, to focus on deploying 5G systems that can fully support the vertical industries and actually stimulate them to grow.

As well as deploying the emerging 5G technology, it is important Europe continues to invest in network infrastructure research and development. It is clear there will be further versions of 5G developed in the next few years and in the longer term systems beyond 5G will be needed. Considering the increasingly fragmented global political landscape, it is vital Europe enhances the technological basis and competence to create such advanced communication systems to ensure a competitive industrial infrastructure and, indeed, the ability to tackle future societal problems.