5G predictions from the Scotland 5G Centre

19/12/2023
Jack Waland (The Scotland 5G Centre)

by Jack Waland, Technical Programme Manager, The Scotland 5G Centre

2023 has been a pivotal year for investment in 5G networks, both public and private. The market has continued to expand globally, moving beyond mobile broadband and into various 5G applications that have transformed the way we work, live, and play. Regardless of recent economic struggles, 2023 was a year of growth for advanced connectivity and we’re one step closer to becoming a more connected world.

As we move into 2024, I expect organisations will pay particular attention to three key areas in the next year.   

  1. The move from a temporary 5G solution to a more robust 5G SA network

The collaboration between existing 4G equipment uplifted by 5G elements works well from a consumer perspective, but it’s just no good for business and commercial users. Businesses need robust networks with increased functionality, and we’ll start to see that happen as we move away from 4G architecture and into more standalone 5G.

5G Stand Alone (5G SA) upgrades will result in a significant shift away from legacy 4G network architectures. The much broader reach of 5G means that we are at an exciting tipping point where we will reap its benefits from beyond higher upload and download speeds – something that businesses have been calling for a long time. 

Indeed, as 5G SA becomes mainstream, it will be lighter, easier to install and maintain as well as provide a more secure infrastructure. Additionally, it will provide increased capability and flexibility along with a greater opportunity for integration with mobile edge computing (MEC) and offer resilient services through network slicing. It’s fair to say we’re likely to see this robust solution bring much more value to the masses in the next 12 months.

  1. ‘Real’ 5G in a box 

The ‘5G in a box’ market is on the cusp of significant growth and is expected to skyrocket over the next 24 months.

The advancements made to Ofcom’s Shared Access Licensing, radio development and sat-com solutions have made it a much more accessible, consumer friendly and cost-effective option than what was previously available. Couple that with its attractive market value and it’s a golden ticket for organisations looking to introduce 5G solutions in their operation.

Getting the most out of their investment will be the number one priority for businesses. The functionality of 5G in a box allows them to dip their toe into the realm of 5G without the commitment of investing in expensive carrier class solutions

There are already huge offerings from major network operators and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon, but what’s really interesting is seeing how the technology develops. The boxes seem to get smaller and lighter whilst increasing their compatibility, functionality and integration capability, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that evolves over the next 24 months or so.

  1. The IoT industry game changer

We’re not going to see huge changes in 5G performance over the next 12 months. Latency figures are already operating between 20 and 30 milliseconds and with download speeds above 600mbps and upload north of 100mbps, we’re not seeing requirements exceeding these metrics.

But where we are going to see a big change for the industry is around the native hardware space.

The impact of the chip set shortage slowing down production and increasing prices across industries was a challenge for much of the technology sector. But, with shortages reducing, they are becoming more affordable and accessible again.

Couple that with expanded skill sets, it’s likely we’ll see more organisations putting 5G chip sets into different types of hardware equipment like headsets, machinery, sensors and even advanced medical equipment.

Equally, there will be continued advanced testing in the next 24 months around autonomous vehicles and that becoming a reality will rely on advanced connectivity.

Oil and gas in particular will see a significant change here. There are some interesting organisations who are getting data to some offshore platforms however, the pace is still slow. The answer to that is sensors. By working with two of our sister innovation partners, CENSIS and The Data Lab, together we are seeking to make this a reality and increase the speed of that data moving around the platform.

Renewables could also be set to benefit. Take wind turbines for example, they need to constantly be in contact and the more data that comes from them, the more they can be managed. An easy option would be to put a satellite solution on every wind turbine butthis example would mean that you have potentially thousands of turbines, each needing a sat-com solution. Equally, it would mean that you’re not only investing in, but also managing thousands of different satellite links. It’s just not realistic. However, if you take a couple of 5G broadcasts and connect them to a satellite, you can manage those turbines centrally – a much more manageable solution.

With the acceleration of technology progressing at a remarkable pace, business leaders must prepare and adapt to change. By embracing advanced connectivity technology, businesses will be able to take advantage of the increasingly vast IoT developments to stay ahead of the digital transformation curve.

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