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5G technology could increase global economy by $1.5tn by 2030

Research commissioned by Huawei suggests next-generation networks can stimulate growth and drive productivity as the global economy recovers from Covid-19

Along with full-fibre, 5G infrastructures are said to be at the vanguard of countries’ attempts to kick-start their economies in the post-pandemic world, and a new series of reports by STL Partners has concluded that next-generation mobile networks can support multiple use cases that can drive efficiencies and enable new revenue growth in industries across the globe.

The studies, commissioned by Huawei, focused on the global economic impact that 5G could have on key industries, with deep dives into the healthcare, manufacturing, renewable energy and transport and logistics sectors. The overarching conclusion was that 5G-enabled technology could generate an extra $1.5tn by 2030 across eight key industries, with 5G having the biggest impact on the manufacturing, energy and extractive, and transport and distribution industries.

The report also identified lucrative 5G-enabled use cases spanning from industry-specific technology, such as precision monitoring and control within manufacturing or connected ambulances within healthcare, to systems that will bring cross-industry benefits, such as connected traffic infrastructure.

STL Partners said the productivity and local GDP output of an area can be increased through more efficient traffic management, routing and optimisation. This 5G-enabled solution alone could unlock more than $200bn in benefits, the report suggested.

However, STL added the caveat that because it was predicting that economic recovery from Covid-19 should be possible by 2022, its 5G use cases were, broadly, too nascent to be significantly hit by the pandemic. It added that the adoption of most use cases was unlikely to accelerate until after 2025, a time when the ramifications of Covid-19 were almost impossible to predict accurately.

Yet the study saw 5G-enabled applications and solutions as being able to deliver more than just economic benefits. Looking at one key application industry for 5G technology, the study predicted that healthcare technology could see one billion more patients being treated by 2030.

It said that at a time when innovation budgets for most operators are likely to be squeezed because of economic uncertainty, digital health is one area where they seem to be accelerating their efforts. It noted that increased demand for, and acceptance of, use cases such as virtual consultations, remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence-enabled triage and diagnostics, and population level health analytics have led operators to accelerate development of digital health technology.

STL’s predictions were supported by interviews with potential end-users of 5G technologies. They concurred that 5G had the potential to transform industries and provide a route to economic recovery and growth in uncertain times. Yet they also noted that 5G could indeed unlock opportunities, but only if meaningful engagement and collaboration occurs across governments, industry leaders and telecoms operators.

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The report concluded by advising governments and regulators to work to remove barriers that could impede the speed of 5G roll-out. For example, it said they should consider reducing auction fees in favour of reaping tax benefits from GDP growth stimulated by the use cases. It also stressed that telecoms operators and industry leaders must collaborate closely to ensure use cases address the key business pain points facing industries.

In a call to action, STL Partners outlined four main steps to optimise the industry’s approach to 5G in the post-Covid world. First, it said operators needed to recognise where 5G will bring more value to vertical solutions. Second, it prompted operators to identify and prioritise where and how they could go beyond connectivity, going beyond “vanilla” offerings.

Third, it said operators must navigate their way through economic uncertainty without materially restricting innovation budgets that will drive future returns, investing in new technology to help them weather the impact of Covid-19 and thrive in the longer term. Fourth, it said there was a business case for regulators to reduce auction fees in order to (re)grow the economy.

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