Advances in 5G have given telecom providers the opportunity to adopt agile, future-proof infrastructures. Organizations that adapt their data platforms as 5G capabilities evolve, or those that anticipate changes, will have an advantage over the competition. However, those that stick with a reactive approach risk falling behind their more proactive peers.
On April 20th, 2021, VoltDB hosted a virtual panel and round table discussion, Why Milliseconds Matter: The Real 5G Opportunity, for leaders across North America’s telecommunications industry to discuss recent developments and near-term expectations for 5G technology.
5G Early Adopter Use Cases
To start the panel discussion, moderator Dalia Adib, a principal at STL Partners, asked the panel to share their use cases as early adopters of 5G and how that might change over the next five years.
Ali Shah, a network performance strategist at Nokia, highlighted the stressed global supply chain, pointing to the recent disruption at the Suez Canal as an example of what’s happening at ports around the world. His firm’s digital cloud automation platform enables constant video surveillance that maximizes the efficiency of cranes and vehicles’ geopositioning.
Erin Lao, head of 5G Systems at Ericsson, shared a similar infrastructure case with her company’s smart factory in Texas. The autonomous synchronization of drones, sensors, and devices relies on low latency and high throughput to help with the manufacturing of its 5G equipment.
5G’s Elevation of Existing Tech
While industry leaders are looking ahead at the opportunities of 5G, it’s also important for them to consider how its impact will elevate existing technology. Dalia asked the panel to name the biggest differentiating factor that 5G will have over 4G. How are their organizations selling 5G to their target audience?
“It doesn’t start with 4G or 5G,” Ali maintained. “It starts with the business problem.” He illustrated his point with an example of how network latency could solve issues of downed wires, which not only cause outages, but could potentially start fires. For now, 4G suffices. However, the biggest driver for 5G adoption will be mission-critical scenarios where lives are at risk and “that millisecond improvement is enough to save a life.”
Dalia followed up by asking if there are relatively simple use cases that companies could work on to get traction in 5G innovation.
Anit Lohtia, CTO of 5G Strategy at Dell, suggested that desired outcomes will drive the use of new 5G technology. “Connectivity is only one piece of it,” he said. “You have to look at a complete solution that integrates 5G components seamlessly to the enterprise.”
When Network as a Service?
Another issue discussed was whether private 5G networks or Network-as-a-Service would take off first and when a convergence of the two could be expected.
Erin argued that a hybrid model makes sense depending on the latency and security needs of the enterprise. Anit added that while it’s too early to tell, public cloud providers could be in the mix as well. He suggested that Amazon Web Services could issue a package that would allow an enterprise to combine with any third-party radius to create a private network.
Ali summarized his thoughts by simplifying the difference between private and public networks. “Private makes sense if the coverage area is small and the operator wants the enterprise to contain the data. We see this all the time with Nascar events. But no private enterprise can cover the United States.”
Upcoming 5G Use Cases
When it comes to the future of 5G and latency advances, there are still plenty of undiscovered use cases to experiment with and questions to explore.
Chris Brown, VP of Solution Engineering at LogiSense, suggested that new network capabilities could mirror the API ecosystem. “Telcos will set standards and then partners will define the 5G network and drive its productization. The operators will take a commission on that for using the network.”
Anit predicted that over the next five to seven years, the use cases for 5G will expand exponentially. New services can be added as providers do more R&D, even including autonomous vehicles that run on intelligent highways. While Ali saw similar advances in the future, he estimated that it will be 2022 before there is a commercial rollout of ultra-reliable low latency 5G connected devices.
5G has the capability to expedite innovation cycles, improve customer experience, and radically change the IT world. However, the real-time opportunities of 5G won’t be realized all at once. Through a combination of innovation driven by individual company needs and dramatic investments in global innovation, digital transformation leaders will work to save milliseconds and transform the ways we work and live.