Until now, mobile internet mainly focused on improving consumer applications such as video calls, navigation, web browsing or streaming. 5G will probably have a stronger focus on applications for businesses and other large organisations.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
5G makes it possible for businesses to better interconnect devices such as sensors, manufacturing machines, vehicles or robots. Each of them receives a unique identification code and can autonomously transfer data via a digital network so human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction is not even necessary anymore. Examples: predictive maintenance, smart metering, asset tracking or connected vehicles.
- Smart factories
Enabled by 5G, smart factories use a combination of smart technologies: IoT, cloud and edge computing, machine learning robotic process automation, and advanced production analytics. Sensors gather data to identify manufacturing optimisation opportunities, and lay the basis for automated, autonomous, self-adapting production processes, which run and learn in almost real-time. The goal is to improve the output, throughput, cost, quality, safety, and consistency of the factory.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
This technology is already used by businesses. For example in warehouse management and logistics: by wearing headsets, employees can find requested items more easily. It also helps to detect and reduce threats, teach employees, and reduce onsite accidents. Possible benefits extend to increased precision of the industrial manufacturing process, ensuring a fast time-to-market, and better quality of manufactured goods.
There is a lot of money at stake in all of this. The consulting agency McKinsey projects that the total revenue from 5G IoT modules for example will increase from about €150 million in 2022 to almost €8.3 billion in 2030.
This has also led to new actors entering the space that had previously only been occupied by telecom operators. Germany, for example, wanted to prevent a monopoly and reserved a part of their 5G spectrum for private (industrial) companies. This spectrum could then serve to set up private networks in places like factories, campuses or airports. Among others, Bosch, Lufthansa and BASF have applied for these licenses. Countries like France, Japan and Australia have equally supported a move to these types of private networks, and have reserved spectrum for them.
The EU-funded European 5G observatory provides updates of all market developments in the field of 5G. They checked the numbers of 5G tests and trials by country. The main findings are shown below: