Connectivity consists of faster, better and increased data transfer between terminals. The wireless race, which started in 1979 with the first 1G technology deployed in Tokyo by the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), led the world to 5G and 6G four decades later.
McKinsey 2022 Technology Trends Outlook reveals advanced connectivity including 5G, 6G, low-Earth satellites and other technologies, driving growth and productivity in all sectors with an investment of $166 billion in 2021. Unlike other new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) or mobility, the technology has a high adoption rate.
In a report shared by Market Research and Future on TechRepublic, the organization explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major catalyst for the global deployment of 5G.
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With the power to transform industries faster, with more capacity and less latency, 5G technology will impact transportation, banking systems, traffic control, remote healthcare, agriculture, digitized logistics and more, according to Market Research Future.
New technologies such as AI, machine learning, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), new smart cars, and augmented and virtual reality applications in the metaverse also require faster download times and more real-time communication. 5G and 6G should boost these new trends.
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Market Research and Future explains that the deployment of 5G is not without its challenges. The standardization of the spectrum and the complexity of the installation of the 5G network are the most important. MIT Technical Review adds that 6G will also face challenges, requiring interdisciplinary innovation, new chips, new devices and software.
The technological challenges of 5G and 6G
There has been discussion about the next generation of cellular technologies that offer higher spectrum efficiency and high bandwidth. As McKinsey explains, many are still wondering if 5G can completely replace the 4G LTE network and what percentage of the networks will have 5G.
By May 2022, the World Association of Mobile Providers had identified 493 carriers in 150 countries investing in 5G technology and another 200 companies with technology that could potentially be used for 5G. New listings for smartphones with 5G increased by 164% at the end of 2020 and cataloged 5G devices by 60%.
While new consumer products have quickly adapted to 5G capabilities, industrial and commercial devices have not.
“Moving from 4G LTE to private 5G may not be cost-effective for all players; it would depend on an actor’s technological ambitions and intended use cases,” McKinsey said.
Market Research Future explains that $61.4 billion is driving this highly competitive market, which is expected to grow to $689.6 billion by 2027. But infrastructure equipment, device and software vendors have held back growth.
MIT explains that 6G shares similar challenges with 5G, but also presents new ones. 6G engineers must work on the infrastructure, devices and software to build the next generation of communication systems. 6G connectivity cannot be achieved by simply scaling up or updating current technology.
MIT adds that 6G uses more advanced active antenna systems, integrating more using other radio access technologies such as WLAN (wireless local area network), Bluetooth, UWB (ultra-wideband), and satellite. In order to bring all this technology into a smartphone, components such as chips and radio transceiver technology have to be reinvented.
“This requires highly creative electrical and computing technology, as well as disruptive industrial engineering and energy management,” explains MIT.
The new 6G chips are essential to cope with the increased computing power. Low latency – the ability to process a very high volume of data messages with minimal delay – is already a challenge for 5G and will be even more so with 6G technology.
Low latency is essential for interactive data, real-time data and applications, virtual environments or digital twins. These are all requirements for AI, Metaverse and Industry. 6G latency is reduced by using nearby devices, creating a signal on a three-dimensional network.
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To solve these problems, new semiconductor materials, smart surfaces, artificial intelligence and digital twin technology developments are being used to test concepts, develop prototypes, manage and improve the network.
McKinsey points out that 5G has proven that only a few telcos have been able to monetize 5G enough to get a good return on investment (ROI). Therefore, capital expenditures and maintenance costs will also be closely monitored. In addition, large capital investments are required to build new technologies and networks, which is another business challenge.
Boosting Connectivity: Industrial Disruption
At its factory in Dresden, Germany, Volkswagen has replaced wired connections between machines and now updates finished cars with over-the-air updates and connects unmanned vehicles to edge cloud servers. Michelin is using new connectivity technologies for real-time inventory management and Bosch has equipped its first factory with 5G, enabling automation, connecting hundreds of terminals and synchronizing robotics with human factory workers. These are just a few examples McKinsey gives of how advanced connectivity is disrupting industries.
Connectivity is expected to increase the annual rate of data creation by up to 25%, connect 51.9 billion devices by 2025 and impact global GDP (gross domestic product) by more than $2 trillion. In addition, 5G and 6G are expected to help bridge the digital divide by connecting hundreds of millions of people for the first time.
In the automotive and assembly industry, 5G and 6G are being used to improve maintenance and navigation, prevent collisions and drive the first fleets of autonomous vehicles. Healthcare equipment and sensors connected to low-latency networks will improve patient treatment and monitoring with real-time data, significantly impacting the treatment of patients with chronic diseases that require constant monitoring.
Aerospace and defense are using 5G to increase capacity and performance, while retail has improved inventory management, supply chain coordination and the payment process, and created metaverse experiences through to technology. The construction and construction industry is printing 3D structures and using twins and fast digital applications, and the mining and natural resources sector is moving towards smart exploration and exploitation with digitization of practices and automation of operations.
Leaders in nearly every industry plan to adopt new connectivity technologies. McKinsey says they should see advanced connectivity as a key driver for breakthrough capabilities. From digital transformations to improving efficiencies through automation and enabling technologies that rely on high-performance connectivity, such as cloud computing and IoT, connectivity will continue to shape how the world works and lives.