5G, the fifth generation of cellular network technology, has already begun to revolutionize the way we live, work, and connect with the world around us. With its faster speeds, ultra-low latency, and massive capacity, 5G is opening up a world of possibilities that were unimaginable in the past, and many of these advancements have the potential to significantly reduce our environmental impact.
As 5G technology continues to mature, we can expect to see even more transformative changes in the years to come, particularly in areas that can contribute to a more sustainable future. Here are some of the key trends that we can expect to see in the next five years, along with recent data that supports these trends and their potential impact on sustainability:
1. Widespread adoption and availability
5G is currently in its early stages of deployment, but it is rapidly gaining traction. 5G subscriptions are forecast to reach 4.6Bn globally by the end of 2028, making up more than 50 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
The widespread adoption of 5G will have a significant impact on sustainability in several ways, such as 5G will enable the development of smart grids, which can help to reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of electricity distribution. 5G will also enable the development of autonomous vehicles, which have the potential to reduce traffic congestion and emissions.
2. Enhanced mobile broadband
5G's ultra-fast speeds and low latency will make it possible for even more immersive and data-intensive applications, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). According to a recent report by Graphiq, the VR market is expected to reach $30.7Bn by 2025, while the AR market is expected to reach $19.4Bn by the same year. This will transform the way we experience entertainment, education, and communication.
When it comes to sustainability, the development of VR and AR applications has the potential to reduce our environmental impact in several ways. For example, VR can be used to train people in new skills without the need for travel, and AR can be used to improve the efficiency of industrial processes.
3. Fixed wireless access
5G will also play a major role in replacing traditional wired broadband connections. Fixed wireless access (FWA) will provide high-speed internet access to homes and businesses in areas where wired broadband is not available or is too expensive. According to a report by ABI Research, the number of FWA subscribers is expected to reach 162Mn by 2026. This growth is being driven by the increasing demand for high-speed internet access in rural areas and underserved urban areas.
The deployment of FWA can potentially reduce our environmental impact by reducing the need for physical infrastructure, such as cables and wires. FWA can also help improve energy efficiency by reducing the power consumption required for data transmission.
4. Industrial IoT
5G will enable the growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connecting billions of devices and sensors in factories, warehouses, and other industrial settings. This will lead to increased efficiency, productivity, and safety. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the IIoT market is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2027.
The IIoT has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture goods and manage resources. For example, IIoT sensors can be used to monitor the efficiency of industrial equipment and identify potential problems before they lead to downtime. IIoT data can also be used to optimize supply chains and reduce waste adding so much towards sustainability.
5. Smart cities
5G will be the backbone of smart cities, enabling a wide range of applications, such as intelligent traffic management, smart lighting, and real-time environmental monitoring. Smart cities have the potential to significantly reduce our environmental impact by improving the efficiency of our cities and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. For example, intelligent traffic management can help to reduce traffic congestion and emissions, while smart lighting can help to reduce energy consumption.
6. 5G edge computing
5G edge computing will bring data processing closer to the end user, reducing latency and improving performance. This will be critical for applications that require real-time responses, such as autonomous vehicles and augmented reality. According to a report by Gartner, edge computing will be a $25Bn market by 2025.
In addition to its performance benefits, 5G edge computing can contribute to sustainability in several ways. For example, edge computing can help to reduce energy consumption by reducing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted over long distances. Edge computing can also help to improve the efficiency of industrial processes and reduce waste.
7. 5G network slicing & sustainability
5G network slicing will allow operators to create virtual networks with specific characteristics, tailored to the needs of different applications or industries. This will enable more efficient and flexible use of network resources, leading to reduced energy consumption and improved sustainability. For example, network slicing can be used to create a dedicated network for smart cities, which can optimize traffic flow and reduce emissions. Moreover, a report by Deloitte, that network slicing will be a key enabler of 5G monetization.
8. 5G and open RAN
The Open Radio Access Network (RAN) movement is gaining momentum, as it promises to make 5G networks more open, interoperable, and cost-effective. This could lead to increased competition and innovation in the 5G ecosystem which could benefit sustainability in several ways. For example, open RAN could lead to the development of more energy-efficient network equipment and more sustainable network deployment practices. According to a report by Informa, the open RAN market is expected to reach $10Bn by 2026.
9. 5G and artificial intelligence
5G will be a key enabler of artificial intelligence (AI) applications. AI can be used to optimize network performance, personalize user experiences, and develop new and innovative services that can contribute to sustainability. For example, AI can be used to develop smart grids that can reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of electricity distribution. As stated before, AI can also be used to develop autonomous vehicles that can reduce traffic congestion and emissions.
10. 6G on the horizon
While 5G is still in its early stages, the industry is already approaching 6G. 6G is expected to offer even faster speeds, lower latency, and greater capacity than 5G. According to a report by Huawei, 6G research is expected to begin in 2025, with commercial deployment starting in 2030.
These are just a few of the many trends that we can expect to see in the future of 5G. As 5G technology continues to evolve, it will have a profound impact on our lives, shaping the way we work, play, and communicate, and will have a vivid contribution towards a sustainable future.