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Getting Ready For A 5G World

Qualcomm just released a report from PSB research which looked at how much the world will change when we move to 5G and our wide area wireless network performance will be more in line with our wired network performance. This is a huge speed increase and I’m hoping it will herald a return to more unlimited data plans—otherwise a lot of us that use a lot of data will go broke a ton faster. But this is the only potential negative, well other than your smartphones and other WAN type devices will become obsolete (but we’re pretty much used to that) and the positives are legion.

Let’s walk through some of the more exciting and disruptive elements that this report forecasts.

Massive Job Growth (Question is How Many Will Be Done by Robots)

They are forecasting a whopping 22 million job increase as the result of efficiencies gained from faster wireless networking speed by 2035. However, given 2035 is also around the time robots—true AI-level robots—should obtain critical mass, this connectivity may be better for them than it will be for us given they’ll be able to naturally scale with this increased speed. So, there will be a ton more jobs but the coming robots may have a better shot at getting many of them.

Massive Increase in Revenue

When you can connect devices wirelessly at wired network speeds a massive amount of existing infrastructure will become obsolete and things like self-driving cars which will need to share lots of data become far more viable. We are talking the enablement of entire new industries around segments ranging from farming to transportation as these much faster networks proliferate AI-level capabilities at scale from central facilities to remote locations and equipment. This should also drive a new centralization of technology because it will allow firms to get to scale faster and more cheaply than putting intelligence at the end points. The revenue benefit is estimated at a whopping $12.3 trillion dollars. In GDP alone this would be $3B, or comparable to the GDP of India.

Incredible Increase In Invention

Of those surveyed 91 percent expect there to be a huge increase in products and services that haven’t been invented yet. 87 percent expect there will be whole new industries that will emerge to take advantage of the increased connectivity. 83 percent expect increased growth in small companies and 89 percent believe that we’ll see a significant increase in worker productivity (and that is without the robot thing). Overall a much bigger impact than 4G/LTE had.

Lagging Companies and Countries Will Be Screwed

Given the above, the common perception from the study is that companies and countries that lag in the 5G rollout will find themselves uncompetitive and likely to fail after a sharp economic downturn. In addition, better than 60 percent (2 out of 3) respondents believe that their countries critical services will depend on getting 5G in a timely manner.

Security Will Be Critical

One of the agreed absolutely critical aspects of the 5G rollout will be the related enhanced security. Current technologies are quickly falling behind in the race to defend themselves against ever more creative attackers and 5G’s enhanced security capabilities will be critical to keeping companies and countries safe. Given the number of breaches and scandals last year it hard to believe things could get worse and 5G may be a critical part of assuring that they get better instead.

Easy Transition

Given this massive amount of change and the related impact it is certainly interesting that most also believe the move to 5G won’t be as disruptive as prior moves. I expect this is largely because there is vastly more experience on how to make these moves now and that 5G was designed to work relatively seamlessly with 4G/LTE minimizing disruption.

Wrapping Up: The 5G Quiet Revolution

This is a weird combination of predictions in that the impact of 5G on the world will be massive while the physical move won’t be problematic at all. We are still early on in the process but this does solidly suggest that countries and companies that are slow to adapt may rapidly be overtaken by their peers who are far less tentative. In any case change is coming and this is one of those changes that would be far more painful to miss than it will be to implement. Choose wisely.

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