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5G at ‘tipping point’ as Nokia reveals biggest drivers for enterprise 5G

While analyst believes ‘enormous’ investment required and lack of killer apps put 5G growth in doubt, comms tech giant Nokia paints picture of IT decision-makers making tracks with next-gen infrastructure

Two simultaneously launched research pieces from IDTechEx and Nokia looking at the prospects for the development of the next-generation communications infrastructure have arrived at rather uncoordinated conclusions as to how 5G will develop over the short term.

For its part, and even though it calculated that there are now more than 80 operators in 42 countries/territories that have launched commercial 5G services, IDTechEx believes that the 5G industry is at a tipping point.

IDTechEx sees 5G as offering one of the largest market opportunities in the coming years, with large scale roll-out of infrastructures and rapid adoption of 5G devices and services, yet its research noted that no less than enormous investment required to develop 5G and the unclear map of killer applications also puts the future of 5G into question.

In all, IDTechEx expects the 5G market to be worth around $720bn by 2030, mainly contributing from the mobile service, fixed wireless services and narrow-band internet of things (IoT).

It said high-value use cases including 3D robotic control, virtual reality (VR) monitoring and remote medical control offer technical challenges that today’s communications technologies have not addressed yet.

That said, with many characteristic benefits promised by 5G likely to operate in the mmWave 5G band, the ability to work at such a high frequency requires new materials and different designs within 5G suitable devices. High frequency leads to more significant transmission loss, which offers opportunities for low-loss materials with small dielectric constant.

No such ambiguity was detected in the Nokia research, which revealed that nearly two-thirds of IT decision-makers were now aware of 5G and a third were using it today, with 47% have started their 5G planning already.

Just over half (54%) were waiting for more widespread 5G availability (54%), and nearly a third (30%) reported they would also like to better understand the value of 5G before developing a strategy to use it with their organisation.

The study, conducted in partnership with Parks Associates, surveyed more than 1,000 IT decision-makers and covered key enterprise segments including energy, manufacturing, government/public safety, and automotive/transportation.

Over half of respondents (55%) found immersive experiences – that is 5G-enabled augmented reality (AR) or VR – appealing. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, 52% of professionals were drawn to the prospect of 5G AR/VR for employee training. Two-thirds of education respondents found the ability to provide access to interactive education experiences as appealing.

Unlike IDTechEx, Nokia also identified a killer app in the form of video across verticals and different business sizes. The study found 83% regarded video as compelling and 48% cited 5G-enhanced video monitoring as a near-term (0-4 years) opportunity.

Respondents stated that they could readily grasp the additional value that 5G can bring to video, with 83% finding video alerts such as detecting and recognising who was on-premise as valuable capabilities. Video was followed by remote-controlled machinery, with 77% of participants interested, and connected cars at 73%.

With survey respondents revealing that 61% of businesses would look to a mobile operator for direction when planning 5G services, Nokia concluded that communications services providers (CSPs) have an opportunity to position themselves with those enterprises that are looking for 5G expertise during these uncertain times.

Inevitably, the study also recognised the effect that the Covid-19 crisis would have on 5G development. Commenting on the research and this point specifically, Josh Aroner, vice-president of marketing for Nokia’s service provider business, anticipated that requirements born out of the Covid-19 pandemic would accelerate longer-term 5G plans with a focus on digitisation, automation and analytics, which he said perfectly lent themselves to physical distancing, monitoring and remote working.

“Now we have a better understanding of what is happening in the network, there is a clear call to action for CSPs to invest in vertical expertise and guide their enterprise customers with more 5G education,” he said.

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