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How is 5G Rollout Pacing up Amidst COVID-19?

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The COVID-19 crisis has made it mandatory for industries such as manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture to digitize their business process. Industries like media, e-commerce and entertainment had already plunged themselves deep into digitalization, and thus were able to handle the pandemic’s impact far better than the aforementioned industries. Since these industries are heavily focused their investments towards information and communication technology (ICT), they were flexibly enough to adjust their shifts as per the COVID circumstances.

Why Physical Industries are Slow at Digitalization and What it Means for these Industries?
It does seem like more-physical industries are taking their time to move to digitalization and so far, these industries were able to digitize only a small portion of their realm. This mainly owes to the need for deploying new and emerging technologies in order to meet the rigorous performance requirements imposed on many of their operations.

Although a vast number of us may have come across or used services like telemedicine in the healthcare sector and agri-tech from the agricultural sector among others, these have just stepped into popularity thanks to the pandemic, but they need to shine more than the limelight focused on them. To do that, these physical industries need to incorporate more of these new-age technologies that are closely tied to 5G, which fall under the umbrella of 5G+, which is referred by Bell Labs Consulting, to achieve digitalization.

By doing so, these technologies will help unfold the futuristic economic potential of the aforementioned physical industries. The various new-age technologies that take shelter under the 5G+ umbrella is augmented intelligence (AugI), machine learning (ML), advanced sensors, private networks, edge cloud infrastructure and machine technologies, end-to-end security, network-as-a-service models, as well as enterprise applications, services, and related platforms.

“As 5G renders high-speed, live-streaming data a secure reality, areas of innovation that have been gradually evolving – from blockchain to augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics – will rapidly accelerate their progress. As a result, our ability to interact remotely, work autonomously, and intelligently manage resources would increase by orders of magnitude. We'll be in the digital-by-default era”, expressed Gabriela Styf Sjoman, Chief Strategy Officer, Nokia.

The many benefits that the 5G+ technologies manifest are Increased protection, productivity, and reliability are all potential benefits of 5G+ technology for physical industries (SPE). Furthermore, these innovations allow companies to develop resilience that can withstand any business shocks. 5G+ is, in a way, a modern business ICT and industrial operations technology system which is designed to reawaken latest demand and usher in a new age of development through physical industries.

As a matter of fact, it will make smart cities smarter, increase the number of autonomous vehicles, and make virtual learning and remote healthcare a powerful reality which could soon become our future livelihood. It will also change the global economies. The multinational technology giant and a leader in 5G tech, Nokia estimates that by 2030, 5G will produce $8 trillion in global value.

"As 5G renders high-speed, live-streaming data a secure reality, areas of innovation that have been gradually evolving – from blockchain to augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics – will rapidly accelerate their progress. As a result, our ability to interact remotely, work autonomously, and intelligently manage resources would increase by orders of magnitude. We'll be in the digital-by-default era", expressed Gabriela Styf Sjoman, Chief Strategy Officer, Nokia.

However, the physical industries must refine their 5G+ technology use to digitally supplement themselves along the lines of SPE (safety, productivity, and efficiency) improvements in order to reap the most benefits at higher speeds and scale.

Does Safety Really Matter?
The safety improvement can be defined as measuring the reduction in safety-related incidents. For instance, factories that use Augmented Intelligence and Machine Learning (AugI/ML) may use it in conjunction with intelligent video sensing to detect an accident before it occurs, thus enhancing worker and equipment protection. Meanwhile, productivity growth, in which most important determinant of overall SPE gains and is described as an increase in the number of products or services generated from the same asset base. With AugI/ML systems, factories can better predict specific market demands, allowing for anticipatory operations, as well as shorter response times and increased operational efficiency.
Regardless of the COVID-19 turmoil, the global 5G infrastructure market is expected to develop at a CAGR of 69.4 percent, surpassing $46,104.16 million by 2027, according to a report by GlobeNewswire Inc.

The latest financial results of global 5G tech leaders like Nokia and Ericsson tells the same story. For instance, lend your ears to Ericsson’s CEO & President, Börje Ekholm.

Börje elucidates, "We saw a 10 percent increase in organic revenue, largely due to market share increases in Networks. Organic sales increased by 14 percent after adjusting for declining IPR revenues. Gross margin increased to 42.9 percent (40.4 percent) year over year, with margin improvements across the board more than offsetting lower IPR licensing revenues. Despite substantial investments in our company and currency headwinds, our EBIT margin improved to 10.7percent. With a competitive 5G product range and cost structure, we are well placed to capitalize on the market's continued momentum".

Some countries have begun to roll out 5G networks, and India is on the verge of doing so. According to Priyanka Anand, Vice President and Head of HR, Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania & India, it is critical for not only telecom and related firms, but also any technology organization, to prepare for their future workforce.

The 5G Scenario in India
In India, Bharti Airtel has already stated that its network is 5G ready, while Jio has stated that 5G services will be available in the second half of 2021. The DoT (Department of Transportation) has told the parliamentary IT committee that the 5G technology trial will likely begin in the next two to three months. However, according to a recent panel study tabled in Parliament, the government expects 5G services to be available by early 2022, after another spectrum auction scheduled in six months.

As businesses continue to accelerate digitalization in the wake of COVID-19, it is expected that the development of re-skilled, hyper-augmented jobs and a workforce which would command premium salaries, resulting in increased employment and income growth. Furthermore, 5G+ has the potential to increase industrial productivity and business operation across the ecosystem, resulting in higher company profitability and, eventually, higher government revenues. 5G+ would allow a more purposeful, resilient future by creating the supply-side readiness needed by industries in the post-COVID period.

The willingness of industries to open up and resolve the challenges of successfully incorporating ICT and operations technology will be crucial to their widespread acceptance. Physical industries, especially those in India, can ride the wave of early adopters and gain a competitive edge by realizing the SPE benefits if they start preparing their investments in digitalization and augmentation technologies as early as 2021.

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