2019 could be a pivotal year for the industry as 5G edges toward launch. Meanwhile, new use cases in cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) are driving greater-than-ever demand for high-capacity, low-latency connectivity.
Here are four predictions about the telecoms industry’s course in 2019:
Providers will race to deploy 5G, but monetization will prove a challenge
The race is on to market 5G the quickest and be the first to claim it as a standard. Multiple providers have been conducting tests in various places around the world, and the rollouts will only increase as they look to gain the upper hand.
But this battle could be costly. Consumer need for 5G isn’t as great as it was for previous generations. 4G can handle most consumer use cases−streaming, gaming, browsing, etc.−and most people are fairly comfortable with the performance.
5G’s main benefit is providing increased capacity, not speed and latency, making it more of a technical development. Being the first 5G standard network will be a marketing coup but may not attract the consumer accolades and demand it once promised.
We’ll start seeing more edge computing making use of 5G
Many tout edge computing as the next big thing, but there is still a way to go before it becomes fully mainstream.
5G will be a major kick start in this direction. Standalone edge devices (those that directly link to the cloud) are reasonably rare, at least on a large scale. However, with 5G a huge number of network-connected devices will come into contact with the cloud and start to become edge computing devices.
However, it might not be the year of edge computing innovation that some hope for
A question remains: Who is going to make use of the fresh potential for edge computing? Mobile devices themselves are fairly powerful nowadays, and many are able to run some AR processes effectively, meaning you don’t need edge at the bottom of the machine to enhance its compute power.
The same goes for self-driving cars; another innovation people are watching closely for a 5G and edge effect. There's certainly an interest in putting data closer to the user in this case, but again, a lot of compute power can be delivered directly within cars themselves.
There are use cases that telecoms providers can leverage to demonstrate the importance of using 5G and edge together, but the challenge once again is monetization. Current examples include location-specific use cases such as museums tapping into AI or local caching of media, and for phone related tools where Wi-Fi capacity won’t be enough.
However, it’s quite challenging to do these things on a commercially viable level, and it doesn’t seem that the industry will revolutionize this in 2019.
Telecoms operations will start trying to become more like software companies
Because of the monetization challenges faced by telecoms companies when it comes to 5G and IoT, 2019 could be the year where many collaborative telecoms groups and communities grow as they try and pivot towards becoming software companies.
The challenge will be in the competition and development of differing standards between these groups. As new technologies arrive, each company will be vying to define the standard. This “too many cooks” approach can create significant confusion and wipe out the benefits of collaboration.
Cloud computing companies have benefited from collaboration on open source−one only needs to look at the number of different enterprises centered around creating products based on Linux or Kubernetes to see that open source can prove to be a viable business model.
Telecoms providers should be looking at doing the same in 2019 by making infrastructure work for everyone, improving efficiency and opening up networks for all apps on their infrastructure.