Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, June 1, 2020
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The Rush to 5G Begins, Driven by IoT 

The number of 5G wireless connections is forecast to soar 150 percent over the next five years as infrastructure rollouts gather momentum for connecting sensors and other edge devices.

The forecast released this week by Juniper Research estimates the total number of 5G connections will jump from about 5 million subscribers in 2019 to a staggering 1.5 billion globally by 2025. South Korea and the U.S. are expected to attract the most subscribers, accounting for the lion’s share of early adopters last year. (“Nearly all” of the 4.5 million 5G subscribers in Asia are in South Korea, Juniper Research reported.)

The larger question is how 5G infrastructure will be used to connect Internet of Things (IoT) and other edge devices? The market researcher predicts 5G “will provide the data infrastructure not just for the next generation of mobile communications but for serious developments in IoT, including smart cities and autonomous vehicles.”

The first wave of 5G subscribers are being attracted by applications like video streaming. Ultimately, the explosion of 5G networks is expected to be driven by IoT and big data, serving as a “unifying infrastructure” for connecting millions of devices and delivering IoT data to users.

“While 5G is not an absolute necessity for IoT, the two are mutually supportive,” the market researcher said in a white paper released Monday (Jan. 13). “IoT is a data-centric endeavor. While geographically stable IoT devices will be able to use local connective networks, those that are more mobile will need to tap into mobile telecoms. This creates opportunities at the infrastructure, device and component levels, which can be accessed by 5G technology.”

Along with autonomous vehicles, the market watcher predicts 5G wireless will support applications ranging from digital health and smart cities to smart homes and mobile broadband frameworks that can be used to link regions that currently lack connectivity.

As 5G adoption gathers momentum, Juniper Research said the availability of infrastructure components that support 5G will further seed the market. For example, introduction of fixed wireless access routers is seen as providing a gateway to launch broadband services that leverage 5G networks as a “last-mile” platform.

Early 5G rollouts by Samsung (KRX: 005930) in South Korea an AT&T (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) in the U.S. have helped seed the market. Meanwhile, equipment makers such as Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and China’s Huawei are providing the components of future data-driven 5G networks.

Other emerging 5G players, according to the white paper, include chip maker Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), telecom services provider Mavenir Systems and Syniverse, which specializes in 5G interconnects.

The market tracker concludes, “5G will be better able than its predecessors to withstand IoT’s growing pressure on data networks.”

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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