Big steps towards the launch of 5G will take place in 2017. By the end of the year, Deloitte predicts that over 200 carriers will be offering enhanced 4G networks that incorporate many of the core 5G network components. A few dozen of the 800 operators around the world are likely to be actively involved in trials, and in some cases the commercial deployment of services marketed as 5G.
5G’s enhanced performance will be pre-released in stages via two iterations of the 4G network, namely LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro. Both standards contain components of 5G networks and as such should provide an indication of what 5G may offer, for users, carriers and enterprises: significantly higher speeds, lower latency and support for low-power low-bitrate Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors.
By end-2017, we would expect tens of millions of users to be able to access maximum speeds in the hundreds of megabits per second. In the fullness of time, 5G should offer multi-gigabit speeds.
Much work will be required to map evolving network capabilities (in terms of performance, reach and price) with useful applications. Cross-functional teams, comprising engineering, customer experience, marketing and others should be closely aligned, and should also work closely with a wide range of hardware, software and other vendors whose offerings would be enhanced by 5G.
Deploying faster networks is costly – estimated at around £50 billion ($63.1 billion) for 5G roll-out in the EU alone. But enhanced connectivity is likely to nurture and disrupt a significant part of global economic output for decades to come.
The availability of higher speeds will likely reveal uses we cannot currently imagine with multiple ‘killer apps’. In the US, 4G is estimated to have accounted for some £120 billion ($150 billion) in economic growth and over 750,000 jobs.
The fifth generation of cellular networks will be the most sophisticated ever. It is founded on multiple technological breakthroughs that are likely impress. The public has already been fascinated by innovations such as virtual reality, smart watches and 3D printers – arguably, the personal, enterprise and societal benefits from faster connectivity will be even more significant.