5G — Empowering the Next Wave of Digital Transformation

5G offers ultrafast data rates, massive traffic capacity, and extremely low latency — all of which promises a new era of digital transformation globally. The broadest adoption is seen in developed markets in North America, South Korea, China, Western Europe, and Australia. However, more than 443 telecom operators in 133 countries are accelerating investments in 5G.

These organizations are speeding up the development of 5G infrastructure and connectivity, IT and platforms, and applications and services. As a result, new ecosystem partnerships are flourishing. Verizon and Mastercard collaborated to introduce 5G in the global payments industry. Dish and Amazon Web Services are working together to build a cloud-based, 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN). And Lufthansa became one of the first airlines to utilize 5G private networks for aircraft maintenance. Initiatives such as the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project and TM Forum Open APIs have also shone a spotlight on 5G.

5G devices have expanded from smartphones to dongles, modules, robots, routers, laptops, TVs, and even vending machines. 5G applications are used in autonomous vehicles, telemedicine, smart factories, retail, and entertainment. Since 2018, Infosys has tracked 5G’s evolution among industries across three horizons (H1, H2, and H3).

  • H1 addresses basic building blocks, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications, standalone robots, and video analytics.
  • H2 emphasizes the innerworkings of independent use cases.
  • H3 aims to create end-to-end autonomous operations.

Predictably, H3 will take time to harness — depending on the maturity of 5G networks and solutions, associated device ecosystems, and other aspects related to sustainability and security. Maturity across different markets will be based on spectrum availability, regulations, and other factors.

5G-enabled r(evolution) across industries

Manufacturers are increasingly leveraging advanced technologies, such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and AR. A recent Infosys Knowledge Institute study confirms that manufacturers plan to exploit 5G’s mass machine communication capabilities and low latency to create smart factories.

The H1 version of 5G plays a key role in these smart factories — a highly digitized and connected environment, where robots, machines, and devices run autonomously with minimal human intervention. The fast speeds, low latency, and expanded connectivity will knit all these elements together.

In H2, the technology optimizes production. By capturing real-time machine, inventory, and production data, manufacturers can analyze production patterns in detail to identify a proper sequencing of factory activities and maximize flows.

Finally, H3 uses AR for troubleshooting and further benefits. Collaborative robotics and automated guided vehicles will become a reality in a fully autonomous factory.

Discrete manufacturing
In discrete manufacturing, industry leaders embrace IoT, robotics, and autonomous systems. Here, digital engineering demands accessibility, flexibility, and controllability. This is often led by IT-OT integration, automation, and AI.

In H1, the rush to adopt 5G technology is boosted by companies’ need for low latency, real-time processing, digital infrastructure, and seamless intra- and inter-enterprise communication.

Firms that reach H2 prize the ability of 5G networks to offer real-time data acquisition and analysis. That leads to dynamic scheduling, remote maintenance, AR and VR, digital twins, smart warehousing, collaborative robot-assisted workflows, and machine vision-based quality assessments.

In H3, operations are automated and autonomized. This will integrate the manufacturing shop floor with upstream supply chain organizations and downstream customer organizations through a smooth data flow.

Connected vehicles: Internet of mobility
Connectivity, device, and edge infrastructure will be instrumental in transforming and sustaining the connected vehicle industry — particularly the 5G-led connectivity layer.

In H1, the vehicle connects to the cloud and provides important alerts on vehicle location and key parameters that track, monitor, and assess the vehicle’s health and safety. The vehicle acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which helps it navigate smoothly in confined and controlled environments, such as smart campuses.

The H2 vehicle communicates with the network through additional bandwidth and with higher performance. This enables greater amounts of remote data to assist with driving. The vehicle is semiautonomous and guided.

In H3, the technology enables fully autonomous vehicles to operate in controlled and natural environments such as densely populated areas. It allows complete cellular vehicle-to-environment communication. These include vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-pedestrian, and vehicle-to-infrastructure. In addition, advanced diagnostics and prognostics will improve safety and sustainability.

5G in other sectors
5G is finding valuable uses in a growing number of sectors. The popularity of electric vehicles and distributed energy resources and storage is disrupting energy and utility companies. These firms, however, are learning that 5G wireless transmission can make fully automated and reliable smart grids a reality; millions of edge devices can now transmit high-quality data at high speeds.

Faster speed, low latency, increased device density, and tighter security offer immense potential in the financial services segment. Also, 5G empowers exciting technologies, such as AR and VR and interactive digital walls, for retailers. It also enables efficient and intelligent supply chains for consumer goods companies and enhances visibility and tracking in the logistics sector.

5G era on the horizon

5G’s footprint is growing exponentially. This new generation of cellular broadband has unlocked applications such as autonomous vehicles, smart factories, immersive retail, safer transportation, precision agriculture, and remote healthcare. Any use case demanding rich data experience, automation, hyperfast analytics, and low latency is an ideal candidate for 5G.

Enterprises need to align their roadmap to a 5G-enabled technology evolution to stay competitive. Effectively planned and sequenced use cases will lead to the next horizon.