The connectivity benefits of 5G will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster. Smart cities, industrial IoT, and remote healthcare will rely on 5G
With a blitz of deals, the Middle East’s telcos are joining the 5G movement. It is expected, by 2025, GCC countries will house much of the world’s growing 5G subscribers.
Large-scale investment in 5G rollouts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain reflect this reality. The promises of 5G are potentially transformational. A number of operators see 5G as a key enabler to fuel the economy post-pandemic, as countries in the region scramble to secure necessary network infrastructure to keep pace with the demands of their ambitious “vision” strategies.
Qatar is preparing to host the first 5G World Cup in November, with services such as live broadcasts and augmented and virtual reality. Qatar’s Vodafone partnered with Huawei, while the country’s other carrier, Ooredoo, partnered with Ericsson and Nokia.
Huawei has jumped on the bandwagon to capitalise on what they perceive as a promising future for 5G in the Middle East. In 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Zain joined forces with Huawei to introduce the first phase of its 5G network. For Expo 2020, the UAE rolled out its 5G network at a quick pace – du and Etisalat established partnerships with Huawei for the deployment of 5G.
But what is the impact of 5G on businesses in the GCC?
A report by Accenture and Microsoft states that combining 5G, cloud, and edge computing will have a “massive impact” on the development of Artificial Intelligence and The Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. 5G makes it much more feasible to process AI workloads locally at the edge with faster speed and lower latency.
In the IoT domain, devices interconnected through 5G networks will give businesses real-time data to maximise artificial intelligence’s analytical power for operational decisions.
Putting the economic benefits of 5G in perspective, according to a Qualcomm study, by 2035, the technology will enable up to $13.1 trillion worth of goods and services.
Connectivity is at the heart of industry transformation, and communication between devices is the backbone of IoT technology. 5G looks promising for high-density IoT deployments. 5G will enable organisationa to control more devices remotely in applications where real-time network performance is critical, such as remote control of heavy machinery in hazardous environments, improving worker safety, and even remote surgery.
According to reports, 5G will be ten times faster than current LTE networks. This increase in speed will allow IoT devices to communicate and share data faster than ever and create more stable connections. The primary attributes of 5G include significantly faster data throughput, support for massive machine-type communications in which large numbers of machines or devices communicate without any human interaction or control, and ultra-reliable, low-latency communication.
There’s no doubt that 5G will cause explosive growth of IoT devices in the market in the region. The ultra-low latency of 5G will also pave the way for newer use cases such as augmented and virtual reality and open up new possibilities in digitising verticals like healthcare, smart manufacturing, and education.
More Efficient Manufacturing
Experts say manufacturers will be among the first to deploy 5G technologies efficiently as many businesses use data to capture and analyze systems. 5G furthers this by delivering information where it’s needed in real-time.
For example, they can utilise 5G technology in robots, allowing these systems to communicate wirelessly while travelling untethered around the factory floor. While augmented and virtual reality can allow engineers to work on systems without requiring them to be on-site.
For digital service providers, the real challenge will be the ability to scale their platform, automate the lifecycle management of network slices and incorporate predictive demand and maintenance. To address these challenges and ensure optimised operational efficiency, creating and using digital twins that provide situational awareness and near real-time feeds is crucial. 5G will allow the digital twin models to enable the spatial interplay of digital models with their real-world location.
5G can cope with increasing demand for data and generation, enabling the implementation of several key use cases in manufacturing, including automation and the control of robots and smart factory solutions; end-to-end tracking of material and goods; immersive remote operations such as in maintenance, service, or assembly; shop floor reconfiguration and layout changes; simulation of factory processes, monitoring production and asset data and status in real-time.
The automotive industry, arguably, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of 5G, allowing real-time communication between vehicles and objects. Manufacturers, including Ford, BMW, and Toyota, now integrate 5G antennas in their automobiles. By 2023, according to Gartner, the automotive sector will be the most significant market opportunity for 5G IoT solutions, taking up more than half of the entire 5G IoT market.
The combination of IoT and inter-vehicle communication could lead to autonomous vehicles by allowing cars to communicate with each other and other safety systems like stoplights and roadside signs, land transportation can become safer, faster, and more efficient.
Smart cities, built from a series of interconnections, will also get accelerated to a remarkable degree with 5G. Not only quicker downloads, but people have access to richer immersive experiences
with the connectivity benefits of 5G, expanding opportunities to utilise smart devices, sensors, and data to improve operations and functions.
In the region, as healthcare providers look to the future of their digital strategies, 5G enabled remote healthcare, including remote patient monitoring and virtual consultations and video-enabled prescription management will support the long-term transformation of the industry. A study found that a significant majority of healthcare executives, over 73 per cent, expect 5G to allow them to implement new services that will improve the quality of life.
Although there are 5G installations by telcos in GCC countries, the availability is limited to small zones, and extensive deployment is not expected until about 2025.
While much of the attention given to 5G is concentrated on technologies like virtual/augmented reality and self-driving cars, more traditional industries also benefit from 5G adoption. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology in the oil & gas sector will enable more efficient monitoring and data collection.
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