Special Report
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Welcome to the 5G future: Here’s how the world is about to change

The roll-out of 5G will have many implications, from driverless cars to smart cities

“Looking five or 10 years into the future, I think we are going to see all elements of 5G technology increase and improve,” says Kevin Curran, professor of cyber security at Ulster University. “It will work faster, be more power-saving, and broadcast further.”

“5G will have a major impact on automation, especially driverless cars due to their reliance on near real-time reliable communications,” he says. “Already some driverless cars are communicating with the cloud and other vehicles. We can expect a significant portion of the internet to be consumed by vehicle communications as we move toward a time where all cars will have network connectivity. It will possibly become part of the annual car NCT that our 5G is active and working. It is only a small step for much of the telemetry data associated with our cars to also be uploaded in real time over 5G so as to allow a city to optimise traffic management. So basically, not only will it be important to keep our communication gadgets updated, but it will also be as important to keep our cars updated to the latest OS roll-out.”

For operators currently rolling out the technology, they see a big impact in terms of how 5G will shape cities in the future. "We have rolled out 5G across five Irish cities, and our plan is to have national coverage by the end of 2020," says Debbie Power, Vodafone Ireland's internet of things country manager.

“The GSMA reckon that by 2030, 50 per cent of global geography will be covered with 5G. Obviously for consumers that means faster speeds on the network, but in the future I think that will have a real impact on how we shape our cities. Obviously a big landmark will be the autonomous vehicle, which is just synonymous with 5G,” says Power, “but as smart cities develop, I think we are likely to see drones used more, taking advantage of 5G technology. I think we will see drones used to monitor things like traffic congestion, or in the case of emergencies, being used to monitor the scene and send back vital information to healthcare services – that could be being able to see the quickest route to a scene, or for getting a better idea of what support is needed.”


AI and automation

Other technology leaders see the potential for industry and streamlined consumer experiences with 5G. "In the next decade 5G will lead to a fully connected world where, with AI and automation, it will add a vast array of benefits for industry and society," says Peter Marshall, portfolio marketing manager at Ericsson.

“The most significant change 5G will bring for industry will be removing the requirement for costly cabling, set up and installation and allow a vast array of different devices to work collectively to increase productivity and quality,” he says.

“We have already deployed operational 5G networks based on commercial equipment in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia,” says Marshall. “And our partners have been the first to switch on 5G commercial live networks in the United States, South Korea and in Europe, including Ireland.”

“While previous generations of technology were centred on consumer and personal communications, 5G will serve consumers, enterprises and take the internet of things to a next level, where superior connectivity is a prerequisite,” he says. “As the technology develops the experiences will become more streamlined, so as an example it is easy to see a future where there would be no need to call for a cab because with the AI and connectivity of every device and location you interact with, the network would know that you have just finished a meeting in your office, know that you have a meeting on the other side of the city and send an autonomously driven vehicle of your preferred choice, to your exact location just as you leave your office – no waiting, no asking, just getting to the right location at the right time via a fully personalised experience.”