5G and the Networked World: A New Horizon for Telcos

While there are many things that set humans apart from other organisms on Earth, our ability to network is one of the most intriguing. There is a long history of academic study in relation to humanity’s interactions with systems, especially networks. Even before the advent of the Internet, information technology (IT) and cellular technologies, we formed networks. According to a white paper recently published by ABI Research, a global research and advisory firm specializing in transformative technologies, we are on the cusp of the next evolution of networking, with a “truly networked world emerging.”

In the paper, author Dimitris Mavrakis, Research Director at ABI, defines a networked world as “complex settings in which people create value and conduct their everyday lives.” Simple examples include rural artisans using community center computers to sell products on the Web, and students from around the world collaborating on a science project using Skype and other technologies. But these are old hat. What’s around the corner, writes Mavrakis, will have a profound impact on the way we do business and live our lives through the combination of humans and machines, ubiquitous connectivity and artificial intelligence.

A perfect storm is brewing for the telecommunications (telco) industry, which will disrupt the way services and applications are provided moving forward:

  • Digital natives work and consume data differently to previous generations.
  • An increasing number of third-party over-the-top (OTT) services put economic pressures on traditional communications service providers.
  • Many industry verticals, including utilities, energy, manufacturing, transport, logistics, healthcare, and retail, are rapidly digitizing their operations to take advantage of analytics, improved operations, and new technologies.

At the heart of this perfect storm is a technology that will pave the way for the new networked world: 5G. 5G is a radical upgrade to previous generations. Mavrakis states that 5G networks will be significantly different from today’s implementations and will focus heavily on cloud computing, software, and virtualization. 5G extends both centralized (virtualization of network components) and distributed (edge computing) processing capabilities for many new use cases. Three 5G system components are particularly key:

  • 5G New Radio (NR): a uniform connectivity layer that can span different spectrum types (both licensed and unlicensed), use cases and performance requirements.
  • Edge computing: Whether it’s providing carrier-grade connectivity on the factory floor, providing new “last mile” services to consumers or facilitating transfer of an exponentially growing amount of worldwide data, moving these capabilities to the edge of the network is the next wave of digitization, analytics and IoT.
  • Network slicing: an advanced service that lets telcos sell tailored slices of network functionality to different types of end users; for example, bandwidth-heavy video or signaling-heavy sensor IoT application

To learn more about the emerging networked world and how 5G is poised to revolutionize the delivery of services and applications to both consumers and enterprise verticals, read the white paper, “Building the Networked World.”