Industry specialists share their predictions for 2020 and beyond

The era of 5G is on the horizon

It would be impossible to talk about the future of the telecoms industry without discussing the topics on everyone’s lips: 5G. 2020 will be the year that sees 5G rolled out in earnest in a myriad of countries, surpassing the limited releases we have seen so far.

In 2020, we get to stop arguing about whether it’s here, and actually experience what it can do in many markets,” explains Bob Everson, Global Director of Mobility and 5G, Cisco.

5G is so much more than just a faster connection – it represents a new platform upon which innovation can take place. The near future will see a host of industries benefit from its implementation. One such industry is healthcare, with eHealth poised to explode in the coming decade with the quick adoption of 5G technology.

Consistent, low-latency connections will allow richer medical services to extend beyond the walls of hospitals – to homes and remote locations. In emergency situations, transportation from home to hospital may not even be necessary due to enhanced communication between paramedics and hospital personnel. They will be able to connect with doctors from around the world over a reliable and fast connection in seconds, to provide on-the-spot care,” noted Everson.


The shifting 5G ecosystem

With the broad deployment of 5G, it is inevitable that some companies will find themselves falling behind the curve and ultimately left behind. However, it will not be just smaller, more vulnerable companies that face this threat (in fact, the 5G era could prove a fertile pasture for innovative start-ups). Indeed, major players will have to ensure that their technology is flexible and plays well with others, or else risk becoming unappealing to operators.

The traditional RAN vendors – such as Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson – risk becoming outdated in networks that are demanding openness and flexibility. The closed nature of their technology means that operators are unable to use multiple vendors in their networks, which means it is very difficult and expensive to adapt and upgrade the technology once it’s been deployed,” said Steve Papa, CEO of Parallel Wireless.


Personalisation vs Privacy: A data war for the 2020s

The previous decade has seen the use and misuse of private data brought to the public’s attention, arguably for the first time. From Cambridge Analytica to GDPR, consumers are now more aware than ever of their digital footprint. As companies strive to outdo competitors through hyperpersonalised customer services, regulations around data control and privacy are likely to become stricter.

Going beyond mobile and desktop into a digitally fluid landscape requires enterprises to reduce data silos and gather targeting information from a wider variety of sources and platforms. This will lead to more conflict between wanting a personalised experience, and strong data protection,” explained Daniel Valle, EMEA chief technologist at World Wide Technology.

AI and machine learning will be at the core of this process, quickly becoming ubiquitous with various consumer apps to manage consumer data.

Be it health, shopping or advertising, every app that has a user interface will have an AI element,” said Dave Locke, EMEA chief technology advisor at World Wide Technology. “2020 will be the year AI and ML really begin to deliver to users and enterprise.”

However, this use of AI could put additional strain on the industry’s relationship with the public. As opposed to the sci-fi nightmares of the cinema screen, these AI must be quickly proven to be well regulated and transparent.

The fluid relationship between rapidly developing technology and a more sceptical consumer base will require innovative solutions of its own. One such answer could be the creation of a dedicated Chief Trust Officer. “In 2020, we will see companies prioritise identity management, security and privacy. To help win back public trust we could see the rise of the ‘Chief Trust Officer’ as businesses seek to rebuild a trusting relationship with the public,” explained Locke.


The Rise of IoT

The development of 5G will usher in a new generation of IoT technologies, bringing us closer to the reality of Smart cities and beyond.

Expect to see two areas of growth in end-to-end solution developments,” explained Laurens de Nooyer, global industry director, comms & media IoT at Software AG. “Firstly, massive IoT solutions will appear. By this, we mean very large numbers of low-cost devices, sensors and actuators that consume very low amounts of energy to sustain long battery life. Secondly, we’ll see the rise of critical IoT solutions, meaning applications which require very high reliability and availability and very low latency, such as for traffic safety and critical infrastructure, as well as wireless connectivity for industrial processes.”

UK connectivity and government promises

Fibre is coming to the UK, that much is certain, but just how quickly is a matter of some debate. While the Conservative government has cemented its promise to deliver full-fibre broadband throughout the UK by 2025, the reality of this situation is much more complex for investors.

Investors will plough money into these fibre providers as they set ambitious targets to connect millions of homes in the UK in a short space of time,” explains Richard Tang, founder and chairman of Zen Internet.

However, he also warns that this immediate boom may be temporal, as investors begin to question whether the ambitious targets set by the UK government can truly be reached. “While 2020 will be a great start for the full fibre gang, they could be on shaky ground by the end,” he noted.


By the end of the decade…

The 2010’s have been a decade of upheaval for the telecoms industry, but the 2020’s could be even more revolutionary. Wearable technologies could be just one area in which the digital age will transform the world as we know it.

The cell phone, as we know it, will die by the end of the 2020’s and be replaced by an implant. Implanted in glasses or another wearable, the device will provide all of the smartphone functionality and a host of AR [augmented reality] capabilities—making the current smartphone interface archaic,” predicts Dr John Bates, tech expert and CEO of Eggplant.

Were this vision to become a reality, telcos would find themselves having to reinvent themselves once again. Luckily for them, the 2010’s have provided them plenty of practice at just that.


Also in the news:


Six new UK cities get the 5G switch-on from EE

Telefonica Group to scale back its reliance on Huawei technology for its upcoming 5G core network

A new investment fund focusing on 5G shows promise for the new year