Has COVID-19 unveiled the 5G use cases everyone is looking for?
The race for 5G has dominated its fair share of telecoms headlines in recent times. Communications service providers (CSPs) worldwide have invested a vast amount on new network infrastructure. The race is now on, says Angela Logothetis, CTO of Amdocs Open Network, to identify the consumer use cases that CSPs can monetise to recoup the expenditure.
Of course, there’s been a bump in the road. CSPs, like every other business, could not have predicted COVID-19 and the impact on business plans. The pandemic has now changed how we connect and has pushed a more significant number of consumers into a digital-first, connectivity-centric ecosystem.
The impact of the virus and the shift in the way we consume technology will have a lasting effect on 5G in the near and distant future.
Re-evaluating 5G timelines
Restrictions on workers and installation crews, and disruption to global supply chains, have slowed down 5G deployments in the short term. CSPs have had to prioritise building resilience in their current infrastructure, over the implementation of 5G networks. Ensuring network outages will not occur during such a bandwidth-heavy time is critical.
However, things are likely to pick up. More than ever, we have a reliance on connectivity to work remotely, stay in touch with our family, friends and colleagues, and access a wide array of content. When the world returns to normal, there will likely be an increased demand for new devices and services that can offer even richer experiences from anywhere. The future versions of these experiences won’t be possible out of the home without more advanced networks, and due to this, we’re likely to see a rapid acceleration of 5G rollouts.
Using COVID-19 as a blueprint for 5G experiences
The first 5G networks that are being rolled out today are non-standalone (NSA). This means that they leverage new 5G radios but connect back to the existing 4G core networks. These networks are primed to deliver enhanced mobile broadband (emBB) use cases: significant advancements on many of the services that we use today.
For instance, advanced remote work collaboration and the increased demand for it in the COVID-19 era is likely to become an early beneficiary of 5G. Before the world went into lockdown, our research revealed that 61% of consumers thought 5G would create more opportunities to work remotely with ubiquitous access. In all, 35% believed that the technology would lead to better, more secure and more collaborative video conferencing solutions. 5G will help inject new technology such as augmented and virtual reality into our remote working experiences, bridging the gap between virtual and physical environments.
Online gaming has also seen a significant uptick since COVID-19. With cloud gaming, the processing capabilities that happen in hardware, such as a console, can take place in the cloud, making almost any device capable of supporting much richer gaming experiences. This relies on low-latency and the bandwidth levels that 5G can guarantee, and lowers the consumers’ cost-of-entry due to less expensive hardware. CSPs have an opportunity here by leveraging advanced networks, subscription offerings and partnerships.
5G private enterprise networks will also enable advanced applications on-premise or at the edge. Medical centres and hospitals could have dedicated local networks rather than relying on heavily congested public mobile and broadband networks. Manufacturing companies could use video monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI) to check the quality of production lines remotely rather than sending people to the site.
Cloud partnerships and revised business models
Another trend that will arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is the emergence of partnerships between cloud and CSPs, to enable Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise-related use cases. We’re already beginning to see these come to light. In particular, the combined benefits of 5G networks and cloud offerings with players like AT&T and Microsoft working together on use cases like remote work and gaming.
In terms of the convergence between telecoms and media and entertainment, service providers and over-the-top (OTT) players will likely reignite discussions about how they can work together to deliver a broader range of content to a more extensive customer base. Following the lockdown, streaming providers reduced video quality to battle the surge in demand. CSPs and streaming will likely begin working together on solutions to overcome these challenges and ensure that consumers can always access content in high definition.
Adapting to a new world
There is still a lot to watch out for and look forward to as the 5G story continues to unfold.
The race to 5G is understandably tempered for now as the world prioritises responding to and combating the COVID-19 pandemic. But 5G will remain a critical focus area as we adapt to the new world, and as consumers demand more advanced digital experiences. It’s very likely COVID-19 has given us a peek at what use cases will connect with consumers.
The author is Angela Logothetis, CTO of Amdocs Open Network.