5G will transform our lives but it won’t be overnight

Mobile technologies and smartphones are an intrinsic part of Australian life and mobile’s fifth generation (5G) will continue to rise the tide of mobile connectivity making our lives easier and extending our access to latest technologies and innovation – placing much of it in the palm of our hands.

5G is set to further enhance our ability to connect – personally and professionally with our friends, family, work mates and even things, but it won’t happen at the flick of a switch. From this year, we can expect to see a steady evolution of 5G in partnership with 4G, as more devices become 5G-ready and industry increasingly builds the capabilities into the way it innovates and delivers products and services.

The fifth-generation of mobile technologies is rolling out considerably faster than previously anticipated. In the last week, the first commercial 5G devices and services have been announced with an increasing focus to be fueled by this year’s Mobile World Congress in late February, where 5G technologies, services and applications will undoubtedly take centre stage.

It is impossible to predict the precise impact generational technology shifts will have on our lives – with one proviso – the lessons from previous mobile generations suggest that we usually under-estimate the utility and value gained.

So, what does a 5G future look like?

5G is being heralded as central to the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and is set to transform the way we interact with the world via the interaction of mobility, data and artificial intelligence. As we transition into a more networked society, what we have come to take for granted as ‘best in class’ over the course of the 4G era, including smartphones, fast mobile broadband speeds and an explosion of available content – will be extended and enhanced by increases in network speeds and capacity applied to everything from our entertainment choices to industrial processes across all sectors of the economy.

Faster and greater network capacity: With the coming of 5G, consumers can expect to see faster speeds, increased capacity and lower latency enabling enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine to machine communication – the Internet of Things (IoT) and ultra-reliable real-time communications. For consumers this will mean quicker and more powerful mobile connections at a time when demand for mobile data is growing very rapidly.

For example, the entertainment industry will be one of the early beneficiaries of faster broadband speeds and lower latency, allowing people to enjoy more immersive gaming and frictionless streaming of ultra-high definition movies as well as unprecedented virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Connectivity: As the 4G/5G ecosystem of devices and applications continues to evolve to take advantage of these new network capabilities, the impact of mobile technology will touch every part of our lives, enabling a more mobile-connected world where the products and services we use in our lives will increasingly interact to our benefit – in the home, in transport/automotive, healthcare, financial management/commerce, food/agriculture, utilities and more – most often with our smartphone at the centre of things seamlessly connecting us in real-time.

We will also see true smart homes become a reality. Purchases of intelligent devices including connected fridges and robotic vacuum cleaners will be driven up as confidence and efficacy increases, making our lives easier and saving us time day to day.

These connected ecosystems, often called the ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’, will work with the increasing volumes of data and billions of connected devices to deliver applications and services designed to meet our personal needs plus the needs of industries.

For example, drones will feature in more aspects of our lives and, whilst these products exist now, in a 5G world they will become much more mainstream as the availability and capacity of network connections will make these devices more accessible and their services more commonplace.  Similarly, driver-assisted, and ultimately autonomous motoring, will be a feature of a 5G connected world.

Another example is the potential to change the way we manage healthcare. Where today if you feel ill, you would go to the doctor to explain your symptoms and receive your diagnosis. The 5G era will enable vastly streamlined healthcare data management systems, allowing for ongoing real-time monitoring that enables more preventative healthcare approaches which improve quality of life and positively impacts longevity. The same potential exists to change how we deliver and receive services such as education or the way in which we interact with professional services such as accountants, lawyers, financial advisors.

Almost every aspect of the way in which we live, and work will be impacted by the changes in data accessibility, the flow of information/data and the utility of the online world – all significantly enabled by the 4G and 5G mobile networks.

Productivity and increased efficiency: As a result of a more connected world, 5G has a major role to play in enabling industries to be more productive and efficient with Australian government estimates already suggesting economy wide gains from 5G in the order of $50 billion by 2030. This is in addition to the already significant and growing $34 billion in long term productivity benefits from 4G mobile networks.

In due course, this should mean consumers see the value of increased productivity trickle down through to the amount of dollars they spend on goods and services.

In the long run, the global implications for productivity gains enabled through the connectivity of 4G/5G mobile networks are now being estimated in the trillions of dollars. This reality is driving an intense global focus on the development and deployment of latest generation mobile networks in response to demand coming from governments, industries, companies and consumers for mobile connectivity.

Australia is a ‘mobile nation’ and as the influence of latest generation (4G/5G) mobile connectivity on our lives continues to grow and applications and services multiply, 2019 will herald the start of the 5G era that will gradually transform consumers’ lives.

Chris Althaus, AMTA CEO

February 2019

Editor’s note – An edited version of this article by AMTA CEO, Chris Althaus was also published in The Australian newspaper on 12 Feb 2019.