C. P. Gurnani is MD and CEO, Tech Mahindra.
5G is here to redefine what is ‘fast’ and what constitutes as ‘growth’ globally. It is not a surprise, therefore, that 5G is headlining conversations with global business leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos, 2019. The question is not whether 5G revolution is a reality; what is catching the imagination of world leaders is how businesses globally can successfully ride on the 5G growth wave.
Clearly, 5G technology will form the bedrock of future innovations globally. As businesses tread the path to digital transformation , 5G will disrupt and scale-up operational excellence, productivity gains and market reach – creating unprecedented business opportunities. 5G is going to impact every industry vertical (including agriculture, automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, transport, gaming, media and entertainment) and will push businesses to re-examine their processes, foster innovation and pioneer new production, distribution and consumption models using a 5G lens.
On a more personal level, a fully developed 5G network will have an enormous impact on mankind, and undoubtedly disrupt the way we live and work. For instance, 5G has the potential to drastically improve the quality of healthcare received by hundreds of millions of patients.
Wearable devices and connected healthcare will help people monitor and manage their illnesses, and allow medical professionals to screen and diagnose patients remotely. In fact, the 5G network has the potential to enable surgeons to robotically operate on patients from thousands of miles away.
A long road to success
Translating the 5G promise into real impactful human experiences remains the challenge. There are obstacles such as cost and regulatory oversight that need to be resolved before the low-latency capabilities of 5G open up a new world of possibilities.
There is a dire need to create a global 5G code that will enable us to co-create, collaborate and co-innovate seamlessly in a digital world. Developing this code will require a mammoth effort from communication and technology providers around the world and, while that is well underway, universal acceptance of 5G will ultimately rely on having the infrastructure in place.
This brings us to cost. Communication service providers will need to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure to enable 5G. This includes investing in more antennas, base stations and fibre-optic cables, all of which must be in place before 5G can even be adopted.
It is safe to assume that, with all the hype around 5G, these providers will find a way to ultimately build the infrastructure needed; but it will take significant time and money before we will be able to rely on the 5G network completely.
Additionally, governments and regulatory bodies will need to monitor advances and make it easier for telecommunication companies to invest in upgrading technology. Policies will have to be enacted to enable new revenue models, like data monetisation and content management.
What the future holds
2020 has been declared as the year in which 5G will become commercially viable. Global carriers have started speed trials and there are promises of 5G-ready devices. In fact, it is not just 5G; the future will be powered by 5G coupled with IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence).
Connected Intelligence will be the transformational tipping point that will define this transformation. Even though we are in the beginning stages, it is clear that 5G will go beyond being just a network infrastructure – it will be an innovation platform that connects network with businesses, truly revolutionising the world as we know it.
The writer is MD and CEO, Tech Mahindra.