CES 2018: 5G making waves in more ways than one…

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the most hotly anticipated annual technology extravaganzas on the planet. Hosted in Las Vegas (because, obviously), it boasts an array of industry specialists from all the global tech blue-chips, and features demonstrations of some of the most cutting-edge technological innovations. If the year ahead is the movie about which technologies will shape our lives, the CES is the trailer.

This year, occupying a significant place in the conversation, was the emergence for the first time of 5G as a viable and widespread solution for commercial demands.


What is 5G?

‘5G’ literally means ‘fifth-generation’. It is the fifth expression of the wireless broadband technology based on the 802.11ac standard. The technology will see enhancements to both speed and coverage compared with the now commonplace 4G. Effectively, we’re looking at the prospect of widespread availability of low-latency wireless speeds of up to 1 GB/s. These rapid connections properly exploited, will enable a range of business applications and smarter deployment of Internet of Things innovations.

Who will be the immediate beneficiaries of 5G?

Certain industries appear better placed than others to initially profit from this next-generation connectivity. Early profiteers of 5G capability are likely to be transportation, automotive, and ‘smart city’ initiatives. Already, smart transportation is making significant inroads, but 5G has the potential to increase safety and the responsiveness of computer vision systems with a level of connectivity that’s both highly reliable and highly secure.

The manufacturing industry is also set to swiftly capitalise on 5G proliferation with factories shifting progressively more towards automated systems that can be remotely controlled and managed.

Trail-blazing Brits

Keen to remain at the forefront of innovation, the UK has signalled its intent to lead the way with 5G deployment. In 2017, William Priest, Chief Executive of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) announced at Capacity Europe (the largest annual meeting in Europe for the global carrier community) that the UK government had launched 5G test beds and trials in both rural and urban areas around the country. The experiments were designed to better understand the challenges and simulate real-life scenarios of 5G roll-out within individual sectors. Priest revealed the UK government’s intentions for accelerated 5G deployment by April 2018, with further tests planned before nationwide activation in 2020.

Space is already being made for the demands of 5G as well. In October 2017, the government announced that the 700MHz spectrum was to be freed up for telecoms usage only. The spectrum will become the playground of MNOs to provide UK citizens with maximum mobile coverage by 2020.

The B-word

It’s a cold, hard fact that anything the UK government currently says or does must be viewed through the lens of Brexit. Priest assured those gathered for his speech at Capacity Europe, that the UK was prioritising telecoms during trade negotiations with the EU, with the two-year transition period providing assurances that ‘cliff edge’ scenarios will be avoided.

As with most ‘assurances’ the UK government provides, until there are definitive answers on the final Brexit outcome, caution should be taken as to how much faith is put into them. However, it is clear that the 5G revolution will have a home in the UK.

Altogether, the momentum behind 5G is overwhelming. We are headed for a degree of connectivity once fantasised about in comics, and all being well, as residents of this little island, we couldn’t be better placed to benefit from it.