Clearing 5G obstacles for broader adoption

  • Two-pronged approach required to address 5G challenges 
  • Complexity, diversity of 5G necessitates substantial investment from enterprises

Clearing 5G obstacles for broader adoption

5G technology has advanced considerably in the last two years. Its enhanced speed and scalability have made it a cornerstone for Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. This digital transformation leverages connected devices, data, automation and artificial intelligence to optimise operations, improve efficiency and drive innovation.

In this context, 5G is not just a technology upgrade; it is a critical enabler that propels industries into a future where connectivity is ubiquitous. The value proposition of 5G extends beyond faster internet speeds. It includes ultra-low latency for real-time applications, higher device density for IoT deployment and improved reliability for mission-critical tasks.                

Ericsson's assignment to roll out a second 5G network in Malaysia underscores the country's commitment to harnessing this potentially revolutionary technology. The Malaysian government has also announced the adoption of a dual network model for 5G deployment, set to take place in 2024. 

Therefore, an additional network will bolster the rollout of 5G in the country, enabling a more robust and reliable network infrastructure. These initiatives are a testament to the continuing evolution of the 5G ecosystem.

However, the journey towards fully realising the potential of 5G is not without its challenges. The complexity and diversity of 5G technology necessitates substantial investment from enterprises developing 5G products and services. A broad spectrum of features needs to be developed, which could potentially slow down the rollout of 5G.

Moreover, the customers for these products and features and the cellular service providers generally have different strategies for deploying 5G. As such, they would tend to focus on a subset of 5G features they would purchase. Since not all service providers are interested in all features, there will likely be an overall dilution in the willingness to pay across the broad 5G feature set. Additionally, the need to ramp deployment quickly could also pose a challenge to the 5G rollout in Malaysia.

Solutions to the biggest 5G challenges 

Addressing these challenges requires a two-pronged approach: deeper engagement with the broader ecosystem and traditional efforts such as spectrum clearing and equipment deployment. As the 5G landscape evolves, we are seeing the emergence of entities outside the traditional telecommunication industry developing network and user equipment. This diversification can help manage the demands created by 5G's complexity.

Significant developments like Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) are also providing solutions. By offering a set of standard specifications across the industry, Open RAN allows cellular service providers (CSPs) to deploy components like radios and digital units from various OEMs for their 5G technologies. This flexibility is key to fostering innovation and competition within the 5G ecosystem.

Manufacturing partners like Jabil play a pivotal role in the transition to 5G and Open RAN by providing cost-effective and efficient production solutions for companies developing these technologies. With expertise in mass production and global supply chains, manufacturing partners can help accelerate the deployment of 5G solutions and ensure high standards of quality and reliability while allowing CSPs, hyperscalers and other 5G innovators to focus on design and development.

For example, network virtualisation is a key enabler of this flexibility and scalability that the transition to 5G requires. Paired with reference platforms, manufacturing partners can help companies build future-proofed networks that adapt to changing demands. As needs change and evolve, the network can too, ensuring it remains relevant and effective in the long term.

Within the network, photonics components transmit, receive and process optical signals, while high-performance switches and routers are essential for efficiently routing vast amounts of data. Advanced manufacturing capabilities can produce these high-quality components, ensuring seamless connectivity and consistent service delivery.

Manufacturing partners like Jabil can also leverage their design services to develop innovative solutions tailored to a cellular service provider’s specific need — all while maintaining compliance with industry regulations. For example, advanced, open-source radio designs are a crucial component of Open RAN 5G networks. These designs support the development of fast, high-capacity 5G technologies like massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output). 

The future of 5G is bright

5G is creating an ecosystem welcoming smaller companies, startups and other businesses outside of the typical equipment manufacturers and cellular service providers — especially outside the typical geographies. Hyperscalers and other non-traditional tier two companies are using Open RAN to host their wireless network functions and develop the associated software, pushing the boundaries of what 5G can do and who can use it.

Despite the complexity of the mission, complexity of technology, complexity of economics and complexity associated with uncertainty, 5G is progressing. This progress is not only in technology and investment but perhaps more importantly, the ecosystem of players is maturing significantly.

In Malaysia specifically, that ecosystem is expected to grow rapidly over the next year. As of April 2023, more than half of the country's populated areas have access to 5G coverage. When Malaysia's second 5G network is created in 2024, competition for market share will create new opportunities for innovation and collaboration between companies in the wireless space and manufacturing partners.

What was once a traditional, linear wireless business model is transforming. The 5G world will continue to see an influx of new players and companies might find themselves customers, suppliers and partners simultaneously.

Successful players in the 5G space will be exceptional at collaboration and will play active roles in a broader ecosystem. This is a great advantage that 5G has over previous generations. The future of 5G is bright and it is probably soon.

Low Choon Yien is Vice President of Operations for South Asia in Jabil.  


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