With operators across the globe at various stages of 5G rollout, attention is turning to the applications that can provide the most lucrative and inspirational use cases, and 5G networks are already having a transformational impact on several industries.
Each company and region has its own priorities for 5G. For some it’s about increasing capacity to serve the upsurge in mobile video and gaming; for others the focus is on industry and how enterprises can best utilize the new technology.
During Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in Zurich in October 2019, operators, enterprises, and representatives from Huawei’s extensive partner ecosystem provided compelling examples of use cases at the centre of current 5G deployment and a hint at what lays ahead.
One of the most frequently cited early use cases for 5G in the consumer sector is next-generation gaming, with leading player Hatch already working with operators across the globe, including Vodafone in its European markets, NTT Docomo in Japan, and Sprint in the US.
“5G and cloud gaming are going to totally transform how people play games,” CEO Juhani Honkala said. “Finally we can bring games to this modern world of on-demand entertainment. People are able to find games more easily, share them better, and most importantly start playing instantly.”
5G is expected to bring a raft of changes to mobile gaming, including expanded multiplayer experiences, seamless play across devices and sessions, and making e-sports accessible to a broader audience.
The technology is also set to make the game development process easier by pushing it to cloud, said Honkala, because it frees developers from on-device storage limits and eliminates the need to tailor to different operating systems.
In his keynote speech, the CEO of Huawei’s carrier business group Ryan Ding noted that the operator LG Uplus in South Korea has been able to charge consumers a premium for supplying top-end 5G to support the streaming of VR and AR content.
Research director for ABI Research Dimitris Mavrakis agreed that 5G technology would impact the consumer market but also noted its great prospects for enterprises, citing the automotive sector as one of the most advanced industries in use of the technology.
“The consumer market will develop,” he said. “We’ll watch better video, we’ll watch cloud AR content, cloud VR, use cloud gaming, and we have a series of new devices coming out like foldable devices, which will be the foundation for 5G in a way. The second most important market we’ve found is manufacturing and specifically automotive manufacturing. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen are key adopters of 5G technology and stand to benefit the most from what 5G can enable.”
Other sectors cited by Mavrakis include smart ports, smart mining, teleoperations in medicine, and the remote control of trucks.
He added that it was important for vendors to become a link between operators and enterprise verticals, noting the progress already made by industrial giants such as Bosch and Siemens through partnerships and the formation of joint innovation labs.
One major operator group prioritizing industrial applications in its 5G strategy is Orange. Its SVP of radio networks Arnaud Vamparys said that the telco had already engaged with more than 1,000 companies, with several co-innovation projects in place.
The group has opened trial zones for 5G in 17 urban hubs and plans to focus the first stage of 5G rollout in its home market of France in areas with a heavy proliferation of industry.
Vamparys believes that to drive industrial interest, “it’s mandatory to create a large ecosystem,” before launching 5G.
Many Huawei partners from the industry sector were showcasing these applications and illustrating future proofs of concept at the exhibition.
Highlighting the vast potential of 5G in AR, VR and mixed reality use cases, the founder and CEO of the Swiss Society of Virtual and Augmented Reality, Mohamed Jean-Philippe Sangare, called the new network technology a “game changer.”
“To have the best experience in VR or AR you currently need a PC – people need to be connected to the PC, so wireless is very important to drive the market,” he added, also noting the importance of low latency in driving the adoption of AR and VR technology.
Sangare noted the difference between 4G and 5G was low latency, speed, and the ability to connect thousands of devices at the same time, with benefits including the ability to, “offer more services, connect, have convergence between VR/AR, artificial intelligence and actually every kind of technology that needs speed and low latency.”
Conundrum CEO Konstantin Kiselev said 5G would enable his company to deliver a high quality of industrial IoT AI and open the company to offering new applications, including providing real-time recommendations to engineers in its core industries.
Enterprises are already working with operators across the world on various industry-specific applications for 5G including sectors such as mining and manufacturing, but there are also a number of future-looking use cases tipped for major future roles including in healthcare and the frequently cited automotive use cases.