Project Foresight: 5G

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Project Foresight is intended to help stakeholders across the IT and telecoms industries better understand and evaluate, at a business level, the medium and longer-term impact of major technology and service innovation, and the extent and shape of any resulting structural changes in the IT industry. We are particularly interested in how innovation and deployment in one area of technology affects innovation and developments in related sectors.

Foresight’s research methodology includes extensive forward-looking research; interviews and surveys with informed, key influencers across information and communications technology (ICT); discussion groups with 451 Research’s domain expert analysts and consultants; and the use of a ‘Disruptive Technologies’ rating system, so that we are able to attach values to the likelihood of technologies being successfully delivered and adopted, how soon this will happen, and what the likely impact will be in various areas. Our timescale of interest is three, five and seven years.

5G: Why the Hype?

The history of mobile radio communication technology is marked by generational waves of change bringing new capabilities and efficiencies to market. Occurring approximately every 10 years, each generation changes how information is encoded and transmitted using radio energy over the air interface to devices. This decade’s technology – 4G – is based on technology developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It offered a flexible and efficient radio interface based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for mobile radio modulation coupled with a transition to an all-IP network architecture for superior data handling.

For the next decade, a fifth generation (5G) of mobile communications is promising to target larger volumes of data transport, dramatic expansion of wireless device scale and integration of mobile communications into devices serving civilization, driven by diverse use cases such as virtual reality, smart cities, smart grid, autonomous driving, massive sensor deployments and machine communication, among others. 5G is expected to bring communications and computing even closer together, building on the adoption of 4G in the mobile sector.

As it stands at present, views on the extent of the impact of 5G mostly fall into two camps: The first of these is that 5G is an important, next-stage evolution of 4G and LTE, introducing new speeds, efficiency and bandwidth; the second, and far more revolutionary view, is that it represents the final and critical convergence of computing and IT, the final move to packet-based networks, and the beginning of seamless and ubiquitous information and control. In our view, given the rapid emergence of IoT applications, both of these views justify the interest and excitement around 5G.