5G is no longer about potential and promise, but reality. Deployments in the US have moved beyond a few isolated cities to the beginnings of a true coast-to-coast network, bringing blazing-fast speed, low latency, secure, and reliable, connectivity to businesses across the country.
This network, which is fully underway but still needs acceleration, will be the backbone for a new digital economy that will transform industry, disrupting sectors like manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, and more that have been slower than other industries to embrace digitization.
The network connectivity and unique capabilities 5G brings will power a number of different breakthrough technologies, including private networks, artificial intelligence/machine learning, mixed reality, and advanced robotics. 5G is more than the next generation of connectivity, it’s a true computing and digital services platform — a building block for next-gen use cases, and an economic growth engine that is driving the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Overall, America’s wireless service providers are investing an estimated $275 billion into building 5G networks, according to the CTIA. It speaks to the speed and the urgency of the demand for these networks and the transformational services they will provide.
Why this is all so exciting and urgent is the economic potential 5G brings. According to the CTIA, 5G has the potential to transform industries, leading to $500 billion in US economic growth, driving $275 billion in new investments and creating 3 million new jobs — essentially creating a 5G economy.
We know this potential is real because of the ecosystem that grew from 4G/LTE mobile broadband. 4G brought reliable video and location services to people’s phones, and laid the foundation for an app economy that created $250 billion in GDP growth and 20 million new jobs while introducing the world to companies like Uber and Airbnb™.
The 5G economy won’t center around apps, but rather the benefits the high speed, low latency, and superior security, that 5G brings to enterprises. 5G is more than a faster, incremental improvement over 4G. It will enable revolutionary new processes, and make tasks that seemed impossible only a few short years ago possible.
The 5G economy has the potential to boost every industry.
- For example, in healthcare, 5G-enabled technologies like remote patient monitoring, or even surveys conducted with robots, could generate $305 billion in healthcare cost savings every year, according to the CTIA.
- In the transportation sector, 5G could save $450B annually in costs through innovations like self-driving cars, emissions reductions, and, even more exciting — it could even save 22,000 lives every year by reducing accidents.
Digitization Transforms Business
No longer a promise, the era of the 5G powered business is here. Digitization, powered by 5G, helps industries become more agile, efficient, and data driven. 5G expansion allows businesses of all types to reap the benefits of enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability, and security.
There’s also an impact on the bottom line. According to a study by Arthur D. Little in partnership with Ericsson, by 2030, the expected industry digitalization revenues for Information Communication Technology players worldwide across all industries are expected to be around $3.8 trillion. That means there’s a tremendous appetite and desire for digitization.
Another study found that nearly 75% of IT decision-makers in enterprises believe digitalization is crucial to the future of their business, and more than 60% have clear plans in place.
Digitization efforts for industry will include things like:
- Real-time sensor networks, allowing businesses to monitor and adjust operations in real time and increase efficiency.
- 5G-powered digital twinning will enable companies to predict when components and processes will wear out or require maintenance.
- And enhanced automation, driven by AI optimized with edge computing and the speed and low latency of 5G, could bring revolutionary impacts to a whole host of industries.
One industry that clearly stands to benefit from 5G-powered digitization efforts is manufacturing. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 91% of manufacturers believe 5G will be critical to the future of their businesses.
Research by McKinsey and Company notes several capabilities 5G will bring to the sector, including moving the automation of complicated machinery to the cloud, and augmented reality to make maintenance tasks more streamlined and effective.
Additionally, the massive amount of data 5G will make possible, by powering real-time sensor networks and dozens (if not thousands) of connected devices through the IoT, will greatly boost efficiency by doing things like speeding up the decision-making process, allowing quick detection of security threats, and more.
Ericsson’s first smart factory on US soil opened its doors in 2020. Located in Lewisville, Texas, the factory is both a critical part of the 5G supply chain, assembling radios close to where communications service providers are rolling out 5G networks, and a living example of how 5G powered factories are kicking off a 4th Industrial Revolution.
At the factory, 5G-enabled automated guided vehicles are increasing efficiency, reducing manual material handling by 65%, and giving factory workers time to focus on other tasks. Another technology possible only with 5G — digital twinning — has led to a 50% reduction in unplanned downtime; 25% improvement in throughput (in terms of production capacity); and a 30% reduction in errors and waste. (A digital twin is a virtual representation of an object or process that is updated with real-time data and uses AI/Machine Learning to help make decisions, like when a part needs to be replaced or a process tweaked to make it more efficient.)
Manufacturers are excited about the possibilities 5G brings to their industry. In the NAM study cited earlier, 9 in 10 manufacturers said they expect 5G to lead to the creation of new processes (88%) and new businesses (86%) — meaning it will lead to new technology we haven’t even imagined yet.
The Private Network Potential
One thing that ties all of these use cases together is the power of private 5G networks to give all manner of industries a digital edge.
Private networks can be physical or virtual, and are communications networks separate from the public Internet. When powered by 5G, they can inject a new level of agile intelligence into any facility, taking the wealth of information captured from real-time sensor networks. These networks help managers keep tight control of network resource allocation, and also ensure that critical data remains on-site, a major factor for security. And that threat is real — 22% of smart factories experienced a cyberattack in 2019.
5G private networks have the potential to transform every industry, but in particular mining, ports, warehouses, airports, and energy facilities, will benefit. In mining, for example, private 5G networks could automate more processes like haulers and drill rigs, plus the ability to monitor and automate heavy fixed assets.
Safety is another major benefit. Connected mining can potentially save up to 1,000 lives and prevent 44,000 injuries over the next decade, as cellular-enabled connected equipment generates large amounts of data, and enables operators to spot potentially dangerous situations before anyone gets hurt.
The 5G Economy Will Boom
The 5G-enabled economy has the potential to revolutionize any number of industries, create jobs, and bring an economic boom to the US. But it has to be nurtured — the deployment of 5G networks across the country needs to remain on pace. There is also a strong need for skilled workers to build, deploy, and maintain, these networks.
It is urgent because the potential is so great. The groundwork that’s being laid for this 5G platform will pay off in transformed industries and a booming economy.