The Road to 5G

0G to 4G: Connectivity Redefined

Since the advent of mobile technologies in the mid-20th century, the life of our nations, cities and communities have undergone radical changes in response to these technologies. Starting from the half duplex 0G of our walkie-talkies, wireless communication is made possible. Moving up to 1G in 1979, analog full duplex wireless communication is introduced, paving the way for the first real mobile telephony. 2G was introduced 10 years later which brings mobile telecommunication from the analog realm into the digital realm. With it comes the the introduction of data services, which translates to the well-known SMS we enjoy in our younger days. 10 years later, 3G was introduced, opening up the way into mobile internet access. It was now possible to access the internet from our phones, perform video chats and even watch TVs from our phones. It does not stop there, in the next 10 years, in 2008, the world is introduced to 4G and with it comes the boom of the mobile app industry, better internet connectivity which translates into various streaming services and the popularity of social medias. The world has never been more connected before.

From simple phone calls to instant messaging such as Whatsapp; From simple picture messages to the fast internet access we enjoy today; From the nostalgic “snake game” in our keypad phones to the MMORPG on our tablet phones. The definition of connectivity, information exchange and entertainment is constantly redefined through mobile technologies. Some of our errands that require us to step out of the house to perform can now be done through mobile devices anywhere anytime. Case in point includes the rising number of e-wallet services, increase dependencies on apps for paying bills and also e-commerce revolving around everyday necessities. Mobile technologies have very much redefine the way on how we live our lives.

4G to 5G: A Whole New World

However all the above are only limited to our mobile devices. What if the connectivity is expanded outwards. From only our smart phones to Things? Things of our everyday life. Things that we commonly find in our homes. Looking beyond 4G and into 5G, this is the road map and direction. Connectivity will not only be limited to mobile telecommunication devices such as our phones, our tablets and our laptops. But just as how 3G gave us access into the internet world from the palm of our hands, 5G will give us access into connectivity between all our appliances. This is what we called the internet of Things (IoT).

The 5G network with the capabilities of enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable low latency communication and massive machine type communication has now become the enabler for the emerging applications such as connected cars, smart factories, remote diagnostic devices, smart cities and so much more. Household appliances can all now be connected in an IoT with 5G. Finally, the concept of a smart home will be realizable with the help of 5G. One such example is the smart lock, where one can unlock the house door by using your phone. This is a prime example of the web of IoT that is taking shape.

Into 5G: Risk? or Opportunity?

However, in the midst of the whole world scrambling to get on this 5G hype train, there is one very fundamental question that has to be addressed. How will we enable all the services related with 5G when it is finally ready? Currently, conventional services riding on 2G, 3G or 4G are being provided by the telco operators to the consumers. Telco operators are the ones that set the benchmark and the standards. Consumers are usually passively receiving what these service providers has to offer. But lets think about it, 5G is talking about smart appliances. smart factories and smart homes. All these demand high level of customization, where the end users have the say to their expectations so as to make a smart factory a truly smart factory in conformity to a company’s business model; a smart home a truly personal smart home to a specific family. The old business model of service providers may be on course to disruption with the introduction of 5G. For it is no longer “What I have for sale” but “How can I meet your needs”.

Will the tables be turned? In order to survive, for telco operators to thrive in the advent of 5G and not fall behind, is there a need to adapt the business model? Could it be a risk to change? Or a prospect to a bigger market opportunity? What do you think?

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