5G – an Enabler in Digital Transformation

The global COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the need for technology adoption, as well as the need for coexistence of physical and digital realms. This accelerated need for digital transformation is substantiated by an interview statement of Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft who has said, “As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of work and life globally, Microsoft has seen two years' worth of digital transformation in just two months of its third quarter (January-March period).” [1]

In a changing world, where more devices are online, generating more data, and teething to communicate with each other (IoT), availing sensors at unbelievably low prices from the market. This scenario has resulted in an increased demand for connectivity with low latency, in a society where bandwidth has become the sixth natural element, essential for human survival and sustenance.

Further, many of the telecom service providers have been telling the need for connectivity is more, than it was earlier. With regard to the consumption of bandwidth, it is observed that the slice of bandwidth consumed in a year earlier, has currently come to be that of a month’s consumption. Data consumption is varied from watching movies to learning online to purchasing home needs to financial transactions etc. Hence, digital experience defines the need for 5G.

Particularly, in the COVID situation 5G has already started taking shape, especially during the pre-surge when contact tracing, isolation of facilities, monitoring the containment areas were extremely important. In continuation, during the times of surge, role of 5G was important in terms of remote and mobilehealth monitoring came into place in order thatit was even difficult for the doctors and the medical staff at hospitals to perform the check-ups using the technology. Moreover, robots were deployed in sanitization and ICU and isolation support. Especially, during the peak of the spread, technology was deployed in the process of Geofencing, segmenting and monitoring the affected areas in terms of social distancing. During the tail period, technology played an important role in augmented telehealth, enterprise surveillance, and sentinel surveillance.This COVID situation has been demanding immediate actions to control the situation; hence, there was a need for getting extremely real-time information. In order to get such information, the way machines communicate between them is important, and 5G hasbeen addressing the information needs in a demanding world.

Further, there are now two realms competing with each other; the Real Vs Remote, Traditional Vs Digital and Man Vs Machines, where the relevance of humans would sustain only when we are better than the machinesor when we are capable of doing that the machines are not capable of doing. In such scenario, only what we bring to the table in terms of skills and competencies would matter the most. The post covid-19 world scenario is expected to create a new norm of living and working in terms of co-existence and balance between traditional vs. digital; man vs. machine; physical vs. remote ways of life

However, the best part of the coexistence of the real and the digital spheres has brought forth a hybrid model in every walk of the business, giving us choice to either transact physically or avail of the digital options. Even work has already switched to the hybrid mode. All these changes will bring new dimensions in a way that experience will get redefined and reinvented, and such scenario is where 5G will be an enabler in this world.

4G Vs 5G

  • 5G is a unified platform that is more capable than 4G
  • 5G uses a better spectrum than 4G
  • 5G is faster than 4G
  • 5G has more capacity than 4G
  • 5G has lower latency than 4G

With 5G comes more computing capacity, which will enable more integration of emerging technologies with which new set of applications, new set of products and services will get innovated, new set of industry collaborations will happen, and eventually a new set of consumer base will be created who will transition to this change capitalize the most out of it.

Implications of 5G

  1. Machine-to-machine communication will take a big shape
  2. Differentiated and guaranteed services with extremely high reliability
  3. Provides new experience with an enhanced speed and low latency
  4. Ultra-low energy consumption and cost-effective services

With all given attributes, 5G will bring differentiated and guaranteed service that is very specific and personalized, in which the network will be aware of applications and applications will be aware of the network. For instance, today, a person with a 3G or 4G network may experience interruption when travelling through a tunnel. Whereas, in future, the network will know that the person is consuming a particular content using a particular device, and the bandwidth will be auto-scaled in order that the consumer experiences no interruption. Likewise, the application will also be able to figure out whether the content should be compressed in terms of size and scale. Eventually, the contextual connect between the network and the application will be high.

Moreover, the density of the user equipment’s coming into the play, the kind of energy consumption it brings into the scenario, and most importantly the cost-effectiveness is all considered as the imperatives that will push 5G going forward. Globally, more than 50 operators across the globe are commercially live in 5G already, and are looking at this change as a very big business opportunity for the way it will transform the industries and the consumer behaviour.

Key Technical Advancements of 5G

This technology also brings some very new perspectives; firstly, in terms of virtualization, where everything is becoming software-defined, network function virtualization is happening, where infrastructure is to play a very critical role.The advent of 5G radios with small cells, mmWave, massive MIMO, Full duplex, multi-tiered network architecture, network slicing on the other hand are becoming a very big theme, as they gives us an edge to slice the network and provide bandwidth only for a particular requirement, for a particular division or a region, at a particular time. Further, Mobile Edge Computing or multi-access level edge computing is playing a big role, because most of the processes are happening at the clients’ devices. Earlier, the server-side computing enjoyed a big focus, now everything is moving more towards the client, more towards the access, closer to the customer in order to handle the latency, and extreme personalization.

Technologies that support 5G

As mentioned earlier, inthe Covid situation, technologies such as advanced analytics, IoT (Drones & Computer Vision), Extended Reality (AR/VR/XR) all have been playing critical roles.

We will see innovations with new products and services across different enterprises; more open industry collaborations will happen and above all a new user experience that will be immersive, interactive and engaging in the pathway to digital transformation.

Market Opportunity

A market study from Ericsson states that there is a big market worth USD 700bn across different enterprises. However, the expected 2030 market fruition might happen in the next five years because of the way the acceleration is happening in the new changing world.



About the Author

L Ganeshkumar is currently the Consulting Partner & 5G Solution Head, Wipro Ltd. He has 25 years of global IT experience in solution sales, consulting, practice & delivery in industry verticals viz. Communications & Media; Banking & Insurance.

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