Report: 5G yet to achieve full potential
November 15, 2023
The features and functionality of 5G-Advanced means the technology is primed for enterprise – but only if mobile operators can consider its applications and turn use cases into practical solutions. This is according to a report commissioned by InterDigital, a mobile and video technology research and development company, and written by market research firm ABI Research, which highlights why this latest network generation has not yet realised its potential in unlocking new business opportunities.
Rapid adoption of 5G over the past three years makes it the most quickly adopted cellular generation to date. Efforts in the past four years (2018-2022) have focused on the foundational development of 5G, laying the groundwork for the new cellular generation and enhancing network capacity, speed, and latency. Yet operators have struggled to tap into the enterprise market and to realise the IMT-2020 vision for 5G, which is oriented beyond mobile broadband.
The new report, The State of 5G-Advanced: Empowering New Verticals and Industries, outlines the development of 5G-Advanced and its new features that will see enhancements to existing 5G technology over the next three years (2023-2026). These will be dedicated to the transformational phase of 5G, or 5G-Advanced, and will improve existing specifications, while also introducing new features that aim to optimise network operations and pave the way for innovative enterprise use cases and business models that have not been feasible with earlier generations. These features include:
- Extended Reality (XR), including AR and VR applications, will be enhanced by 5G Advanced’s promise to enable networks to better identify diverse applications and content, and thus discern XR applications and their specific latency and bandwidth requirements. This new feature adds the flexibility of addressing different requirements for myriad applications, like lower latency for multi-user interactions, edge computing, or streaming applications or higher bandwidth for immersive media.
- Sidelink Positioning, a precise positioning technology that facilitates direct communication between devices, and will allow smartphones, wearables, and other gadgets to connect and interact with vehicles. It can also enhance accuracy, energy efficiency, and mapping, particularly for Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) applications and is vital for precision-intensive tasks like robotics, Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) control, and drone oversight.
- RedCap, or ‘reduced capacity’, will broaden 5G’s reach to power-limited devices such as smartwatches, Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) equipment, surveillance cameras, and a variety of IoT devices, catering to both the business and consumer sectors.
- Passive or ambient IoT, which aims to connect sensors and devices to cellular networks without a power source and that could dramatically increase the number of cellular IoT devices and become far more appealing to several enterprise verticals.
“The collective research and innovation efforts of the entire industry have laid an important foundation in 5G, but we must recognise that it’s not ‘finished’ and has yet to achieve its full potential,” said Milind Kulkarni, VP and Head of Wireless Labs, InterDigital. “New features will be standardised in 5G Advanced and 6G that significantly improve capabilities for operators but importantly, open new opportunities in enterprise verticals.”
Alongside the enterprise opportunity, the report also reveals that 5G-Advanced will be critical for the monetisation of 5G, as well as for improving the energy efficiency of, and integrating automation into, 5G networks.
According to the report, 5G-Advanced will deliver the following features and improvements:
- New use cases which unlock new business opportunities, including extended reality (XR), more sophisticated IoT deployments, and applications that unlock new use cases that were not feasible with foundational 5G or prior generations.
- More efficient and sustainable networks, including developing and commercializing more energy-efficient equipment that enable mobile operators to run greener networks.
- Integration of AI and machine learning, specifically in areas of network management, radio intelligence, predictive maintenance, and enhanced user experiences, which will help pave the way for 6G and fully automated networks.
- Improved coverage and capacity, through the introduction of non-terrestrial type communications, mainly satellite, which increase coverage in remote and rural areas and offer better uplink capabilities to enhance coverage, alongside advanced massive MIMO for increased capacity.
Despite new functionality introduced in 5G-Advanced, the report also warns that the “build it and they will come” philosophy on which operators have traditionally relied will not be successful in the enterprise domain unless they can fully understand and embrace the long tail of enterprise requirements and pain points. 5G-Advanced’s new functionality can help operators address the enterprise domain, but an additional step is necessary for success: understanding how to deploy and how to market these capabilities to enterprise verticals.
“InterDigital has long made significant contributions to wireless development efforts in 3GPP, ETSI, and 6G forums like the Next G Alliance, and will continue to develop technologies that will form the bedrock of new standards that usher in these new features,” InterDigital CTO Rajesh Pankaj added. “We believe the operators will capitalize on these capabilities and drive new applications and use cases that will help us all collectively meet the ambitions set out in IMT-2020 to support the development of other industry sectors.”
The biggest priority for 5G-Advanced is to monetize existing 5G networks beyond the consumer domain and start creating large-scale opportunities in the enterprise space. Operators that have already deployed 5G nationwide are well positioned to provide advanced enterprise functionality using their existing networks, translating into a faster Return on Investment (ROI), new revenue streams, and the opportunity to accelerate their public 5G network rollouts further.