Beyond the hype
As deployment grows and proofs of concept are explored, the benefits of 5G have started to become more tangible. But as research for this report has shown, adoption of 5G will not be linear or evenly balanced across sectors. In this chapter we will assess where its impact is likely to be most significant in the near future – exploring the use and investment cases that are already driving 5G implementation.
“While 5G holds huge potential for every company, in the short-term it is proving most relevant for asset-intensive industries that depend on ubiquitous connectivity to support continuous operations,” says Raghav Sahgal, president, Nokia Enterprise. “The shift to what has been broadly termed Industry 4.0 – heavy industry overhauling its systems and practices through a combination of data, connected devices, automation and artificial intelligence – provides the most immediate and meaningful catalyst for enterprise deployment of 5G.”
Across sectors including energy, transportation, manufacturing and mining, the growing reliance on IoT translates to increased demand for bandwidth, minimal latency and enhanced security. IT and OT (operational technology) are converging as companies seek to become more agile, productive and cost-effective in the emerging data era.
“As these industries pursue ambitious transformation plans, their need for secure, dependable, scalable connectivity is bringing 5G to the forefront of digital strategy,” continues Raghav. “Indeed, many companies in these areas have already taken steps in this direction, deploying 4.9G networks that allow them to connect billions of IoT-enabled devices and assets, and which will in turn provide a smooth evolution to 5G.”
Examples of 4.9G and 5G networks underpinning Industry 4.0
From remote machine operation to secure video communication between surface control and deep underground, mining can benefit from numerous capabilities underpinned by 5G connectivity that optimize operations in highly challenging conditions.
Nokia is working with Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology to deploy a 5G SA (standalone) private wireless network at its test mine in Tampere, Finland, allowing it to trial and showcase a range of new products and systems. These will cover use cases from communication to fleet automation, analytics and health and safety. Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) allows Sandvik to securely collect, process and host all proprietary data on site.
In every area of industry, the relentless growth of connected devices and automated systems will necessitate adoption of 5G if organizations are to support their transformation plans. Gartner projects that, by the end of this year, the number of enterprise and automotive IoT endpoints will grow to 5.8 billion, a 21% increase on 2019.
As well as heavy industry, 5G is also becoming more relevant for services companies as they respond to the new needs of employees in the wake of COVID-19. According to Nokia customer Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile network provider, this has meant growing demand that is accelerating the roll-out of 5G.
“With more people working from home, we’ve had a lot of requests for reliable fixed network connectivity in areas where we did not have fiber coverage. Our strategy is to use fiber but complement it with 5G – because it’s easier, faster and cheaper.”
The smart home and home office, says James Maitai, Network Director at Safaricom, represents one of 5G’s most immediate consumer use cases. It is not just that 5G will provide faster and more reliable connectivity, removing familiar frustrations for remote workers. It will also expand what is possible from the home office – supporting immersive digital experiences that bring physical and virtual environments closer together, narrowing the gap between physical and remote presence.
“As digital transformation sweeps through all areas of the economy, 5G is providing the enabling infrastructure,” echoes Raghav. “From the smart factory to the home office, next-generation connectivity will help to unleash the full potential of connected devices, automated processes, converged systems and virtual experiences. In homes, on roads, at ports and across rail networks and power systems, 5G is helping to build the new working world.”
Safaricom’s 5G rollout
For Safaricom, the process of preparing to launch Kenya’s first 5G network has been extensive, involving a combination of network modernization, training and upskilling, customer education and device readiness.
“Safaricom is the market leader in Kenya, with an 80% market share,” says Network Director James Maitai. “We’ve always led in the adoption of new technologies, from 3G and 4G to M-Pesa, so this was a natural evolution.”
In addition to technical readiness and training its people to work with 5G, a strong focus has been helping enterprise customers understand the distinct advantages of 5G. “We are working with Nokia to help enterprises take a longer-term view and understand why they need to invest in new devices and new business strategy,” he says. “A lot of companies tend to focus on what is expensive or difficult now, when they need to focus on where to invest not just to optimize their business, but to be ahead of the competition.”
One challenge is overcoming a preference for fiber broadband. “We are trying to explain to enterprises that 5G will be a viable alternative to fiber. Many want to use fiber everywhere, even though it’s more expensive and takes longer to build, and is even more expensive to run. They don’t always see the areas where 5G will be more convenient and sustainable.”
As Safaricom’s 5G network is introduced, James anticipates the evolution of new, industry-specific use cases. “We see a lot of opportunity in use cases that are not developed yet. For example, with airports we can provide security solutions based on 5G connectivity, and 5G’s latencies mean we can create custom slices for these markets.”
The urgency to adopt 5G technologies in the wake of the pandemic has also been underscored by another major Nokia customer, BT, the multinational telecommunications provider headquartered in London, UK, as it highlighted the critical role 5G will play in driving recovery in a post-COVID world.
“The 5G business benefits identified in this report support our own experience of working with UK enterprise customers to enable the adoption of 5G-led converged solutions. The productivity and efficiency gains driven by 5G and complementary technologies will be absolutely critical in fuelling the post-COVID economic recovery in the UK and globally.
“Across key sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, education and smart cities, BT is working with customers to prove the profoundly positive impact that 5G will have on the way we live, work and consume public services. We’re witnessing first-hand how 5G can speed up production lines, deliver better outcomes for patients, transform the learning experience and make our cities safer, cleaner and more sustainable.
“We understand that some customers may feel daunted by the prospect of implementing 5G technologies – a key finding of the report. That’s why BT is focused on making the complex seem simple for its customers by partnering with world class vendors like Nokia to deliver 5G-led converged solutions as part of a fully managed service. This takes the pain of implementation away from customers so all they need do is sit back and enjoy the ride as they progress their digital transformation journeys.”