5G: A Change in Perspective

By Adrian Scrase, CTO, ETSI

Adrian Scrase, CTO, ETSI

The first 5G networks are already open for business, delivering significantly faster data rates and lower latency than we have been accustomed to with 3G and 4G. Speed aside, 5G offers transformative possibilities to connect people, machines and information. Thatis great news from a user’s perspective – whether you are downloading big files, gaming, managing a fleet of autonomous vehicles, monitoring a factory inspection line, or streaming live sport to viewers worldwide.

"With 5G, we will see the emergence of many new use cases, including a vast range of applications that will put pressure on networks in terms of metrics like connectivity, throughput, and security"

Just like its predecessors, 5G’s existence depends on solid technical foundations built by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3gpp.org). Created in 1998 by ETSI and other standardization organizations around the world, 3GPP develops specifications for advanced mobile communications technologies spanning radio access, core networks, terminals, and service aspects. And with 5G one thing is certain –the world suddenly looks very different from everyone’s viewpoint, including network operators, equipment manufacturers, service providers, and end-users.

With 5G, we will see the emergence of many new use cases, including a vast range of applications that will put pressure on networks in terms of metrics like connectivity, throughput, and security. When we think of the Internet of Things (IoT), we tend to think of devices such as Internet-connected devices like smartwatches, medical sensors, and water meters. Thanks to 5G, there is going to be a massive number of these devices. The traffic they generate is typically intermittent and at low data rates – certainly not like streaming a movie to your phone. And while individually these devices do not make massive demands on networks, when this traffic is scaled to hundreds of millions or even billions of devices it’s a very different story from a network management perspective.

IoT in 5G will see a shift from an emphasis on consumer applications to its far greater use in mission-critical business and industrial applications. There are hundreds or thousands of new use cases here: smart agriculture, media production, and delivery, logistics, smart cities, factory production lines, transportation, and asset tracking, to name but a few. And from a network dimensioning and management point of view, this digital transformation raises significant logistical and technological challenges.

As an operator, for example, how am I going to cope with these millions of new end-points per square kilometre? And how am I going to ensure that every device is secured against cyber attacks? With 5G we will also be challenged by other issues like power consumption and management. You won’t always have AC mains power handy – so how are you going to provide power for millions of autonomous sensors quietly operating by themselves in remote, unattended locations, maybe for several years at a stretch?

With 3G and 4G, mobile users essentially had to make the best use of the service offered to them by network operators.  5G re-frames this relationship as an open dialogue between operators, network providers, and the user community.  You can see this approach in ETSI, where our standardization activities are driven by dialogue between all our members who represent many different interests and roles in the 5G ecosystem – from automobile makers to smart building specialists and medical equipment vendors. Now the conversation starts with: “This is what I want to achieve for my customers: how can you help me achieve that goal through standardization?”

Why not bring your voice to this fast-growing conversation – and find out how standardization can help achieve sustainable digital transformation in your organization.

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