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What is 5G?

The fifth generation of mobile and wireless communications (5G) has long been heralded as being critical to the success of emerging innovations like automated factories, driverless cars and smart cities. But the migration of services to the edge of network infrastructure and closer to end-users and their devices are proving critical to unlocking this potential and enabling exciting 5G use cases.

5G is a network concept that offers the potential for all people, machines and objects to be virtually connected, wherever they're located. It uses advanced wireless technology that delivers higher speeds alongside greater reliability, network capacity and ultra-low latency. As a result, users gain greater experiences through faster mobile broadband and enterprises can explore new capabilities like the interconnected Internet of Things (IoT).

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What's driving new 5G use cases?

The success of 5G use cases relies on the collision of edge computing, which enables real-time processing of heavy workloads like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics, and the 5G delivery network. This convergence of compute technologies and telecommunications promises to create dramatic new capabilities and untold innovations.

Emerging 5G networks will deliver lower latency and higher bandwidth capabilities. They will ultimately do so more efficiently and cost-effectively than prior generations of connectivity. As a result, they'll support more robust applications closer to their use cases and move the data center closer to the user.  

Moving workloads to the edge enables faster direct machine-to-machine communication and allows a sensor monitor in one location to converse with a counterpart in another location. Eventually, the buildout of 5G networks could pave the way for more affordable broadband coverage to rural and remote regions that have long been underserved by costly, difficult-to-deploy hard wire.  

In short, 5G use cases offer exciting new opportunities for end-users, state and local governments, and enterprises across a wide range of industries.

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Which industries are benefiting from 5G and edge computing?

Rather than having to collect and deliver data to a distant processing center, edge computing essentially brings the data center closer to where it's needed, which creates customer benefits such as:

  • Real-time or faster data analytics processing with reduced latency.
  • Lower costs.
  • Reduced network traffic.
  • Increased application efficiency.
  • Access to the advantages stemming from the cloudification of networks.

Service providers are investing big dollars in future networks to win the race to deliver next-gen applications and service offerings to consumers and provide 5G enterprise solutions. And we're already seeing edge computing and 5G making significant impacts in a range of market sectors.  

For example, manufacturers are leveraging edge strategies to more efficiently consume and comprehend large swaths of data. While retailers are using these capabilities to provide rich retail experiences that rival online shopping, including customized coupons, personalized recommendations, shopping assistance and real-time inventory tracking.  

Another 5G beneficiary is the U.S. Department of Defense, which is  American forces operate seamlessly from anywhere, at any time. The U.S. military employs leading-edge (and possibly classified) technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing and the Internet of Things to accelerate mission outcomes.

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Five exciting 5G uses cases

Aside from these leading 5G use cases, here are five additional opportunities that could deliver significant benefits to civilians, parents, students, teachers and society as a whole.

Education

As school districts and college campuses transition to remote learning, next-gen networks are pivotal to delivering rich curriculum content via 5G-enabled devices. 5G will help improve education for students in school and online by providing new, immersive experiences that make the learning process more engaging.

WWT and Intel are supporting remote desktop solutions that deliver curriculum subject matter, videos, lesson plans and more to rural schools and disadvantaged districts. Intel® technologies for networking and latest-gen personal learning devices will be crucial to deploying 5G infrastructures with sufficient bandwidth. As a result, every student at every grade level will be able to gain access to the educational support they need, wherever they're located and whatever internet connectivity they have.

Public safety

First responders to fires and other emergencies can employ 5G network resources to retrieve building maps. This will help them identify access points, riser taps for fire hoses, elevator command and control, structural drawings and other critical data for rapid, informed decision making. Firefighters can use 5G-enabled drones for search and rescue operations or monitor hot spots near a structural fire to prevent them from spreading. The same technology can be used to map wildfire containment strategies during heavy fire seasons.

The First Responder Network Authority of the United States (FirstNet) provides a dedicated network to facilitate accurate information for first responders. This on-demand network can scale up or down as needed in a process called network slicing. It gives FirstNet the ability to communicate effectively in remote locations, sending drones aloft to serve as cell towers in the sky. The same technology can be used to track firefighters using sensors implanted in their clothing.

Building monitoring and predictive maintenance

Basic heating and cooling management are just the start of potential 5G use cases capabilities. Modern maintenance crews can use 5G-enabled drones to conduct remote surveys of a range of structures. For example, one WWT partner is using 5G drone technology to locate flaws that need fixing in railroad tracks, preventing potentially disastrous derails. This offers a fast, cost-effective alternative to dispatching onsite crews.

5G connectivity and AI provide machine-to-machine communication and edge utilization for the drone, resulting in better monitoring and visibility of maintenance needs. 5G enables more robust data flow, which ensures more efficient power and cooling management in buildings, while automation tools can incorporate AI and machine learning for more complex deployments.  

Smart and autonomous vehicles

The dream of a fully autonomous vehicle that comprehends its environment, connects with traffic lights and communicates with other cars remains some way off reality. But 5G and edge can move us closer.

A significant part of the challenge is the hundreds of terabytes of data that each autonomous vehicle will generate every day. This is a prodigious volume of information that will need to be retrieved, processed, summarized and stored in real-time. Therefore, the data-crunching process needs to occur at the edge rather than the cloud or a data center. Pilot programs are happening now as we advance toward a future of safe, autonomous transport. At the same time, the world will be transitioning from fossil fuels to electric cars, which will require continuous connectivity and electrical charging infrastructure along highways.

Cybersecurity

In addition to supporting more deterministic real-time data workloads, on-premises 5G is unlikely to share connectivity with public networks. As a result, it will contribute to greater cybersecurity. A good example of this would be an oil refinery that applies for its own non-public network (NPN) classification to deploy 5G throughout its physical plant. This private network would enable highly resilient and secure communications for critical applications not previously considered viable for wireless, achieving data sovereignty, industrial-grade communications (quality of service) and ease of deployment.

Service providers are working to step up their cybersecurity game for 5G. And pilot programs are already underway to harden edge security and minimize exposure to attack.    

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A world of 5G possibilities at the edge

The edge is critical to bringing the exciting possibilities of 5G use cases into reality. The marriage of compute and communications capabilities will soon impact all our lives in scarcely imagined ways.

WWT is at the leading edge of this transformation, leveraging the latest Intel® technologies, creating and deploying the 5G network infrastructure elements that will extend new levels of connectivity across the globe.

Discover how WWT can help you embrace exciting 5G possibilities and gain a competitive advantage with our guide to the future of 5G.

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