Deployment of 5G technology is growing geometrically, even with delays in building its infrastructure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysts expect the global 5G services market, $41.48 billion in 2020, to grow at a compound annual rate of 46.2% from this year through 2028.
The question almost seems whether our imaginations can keep up with the technology, as 5G services such as virtual reality, augmented reality gaming, seamless video calling, and ultra-high-definition videos, give consumers and businesses faster access and broader options. The high-speed data conductivity of 5G will drive Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as smart home energy management, smart cities, advanced manufacturing, and self-driving vehicles.
New Jersey’s strong innovation economy with a highly educated technology workforce and world-class telecommunications research companies such as Nokia Bell Labs and AT&T Labs puts the state at the epicenter of 5G development.
The potential for improving the quality of life, here and globally, ranges from individuals being able to stream high-definition movies and sporting events on their smartphones with uninterrupted clarity to cities connecting multiple systems to regulate traffic and energy use.
“5G is giving businesses and consumers alike the potential to develop and experience new, innovative technologies,” Tom Ellefson, senior vice president, field engineering for T-Mobile’s Northeast Region, explains. “For example, 5G is creating ‘smarter cities’ – whether it’s being able to monitor pollution or traffic levels, optimizing energy use, enhanced location services to improve first responder times, or developing self-driving transportation, 5G can enable applications that both urban cities and small towns across New Jersey can use to live smarter.”
The 5G technology will connect almost everything through IoT, Ellefson says.
“Cities, farms, factories, machinery and even clothing can be embedded with sensors that will last a decade – all connected to the network,” he says, adding that 5G’s real-time data transmission has become increasingly critical with the rise of autonomous self-driving vehicles. “Providers will be able to view and communicate with these vehicles in real time with greater efficacy, enabling improved safety and vehicle performance.”
Jason Elliott, head of cross portfolio solutions marketing at Nokia Bell Labs, says 5G is in the first phase of its deployment, providing high speed broadband access.
“For example,” Elliott notes, “small businesses are using 5G MiFi hotspots to provide Wi-Fi connectivity in pop-up stores (that may be outside) to run their point-of-sale systems and to provide visitors with guest Wi-Fi access.”
The next phase of 5G will enable manufacturers to control machines and to move goods more efficiently thought airports and seaports.
“This means remote control of robots that work alongside human operators, automated guided delivery vehicles and remote control of cranes that can reduce the need to work in hazardous environments, improving safety,” Elliott says. It will also support the massive collection of data allowing manufacturers to create “digital twins” that can help optimize and predict the failure of a machine to reduce costly downtime and improve efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and maximize raw materials use.
The National Manufacturers Association’s Manufacturing Institute conducted a study and found that 56% of all manufacturers will be testing or using 5G in some capacity by the end of this year and 75% see 5G transforming their supply chains and factory operations.
Joseph Divis, interim president of AT&T New Jersey, says “5G is evolving to enable immersive experiences that blur physical and digital worlds and more deeply connect people with their passions.” Those experiences include streaming entertainment and games virtually lag-free and connecting patients, doctors and information in new and immersive ways.
It has significant potential for improving transportation systems, as AT&T was able to do for one large trucking company.
“They chose a fleet management platform that incorporated advanced IoT services with a fleet-tracking platform that records driver and vehicle data to help make it easier to comply with government regulations,” Divis says. “This solution is helping improve driver safety, avoid fines, and eliminate paper processes.”
Nokia’s Elliott says the state’s diversity in the types of businesses here, its geography ranging from smart city environments to rural locations, and its availability of academic partnerships with leading universities such Stevens Institute of Technology, make the state, which gave birth to the telephone, a perfect place for 5G to evolve.
AT&T Labs in Middletown is a global leader in 5G development and research, and the company invested more than $1.3 billion in its wireless and wired New Jersey networks from 2017 to 2019. It sees the state as well positioned to be a leader in 5G advanced applications.
“With access to talent, educational institutions and its location, New Jersey has a strong innovation economy,” Divis says.
Players in the state’s innovation economy likely will play roles in the development of Next Generation or “NextG” systems, which are future versions of today’s cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite networks. The National Science Foundation predicts NextG systems will revolutionize the relationship between users’ devices and cloud services and lay the groundwork to support the applications of the 6G era.
Nokia Bell Labs will be an industry partner in an NSF–led initiative to accelerate research that could significantly impact Next-Generation networking and computing systems. The Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems program will invest $40 million, including contributions from each of the partners, to give approximately 40 awards up to $1 million for up to 3 years.
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