Opinion: 5G as a digitalisation accelerator for the region

Juan Colina, director, Middle East at Corning Optical Communications on how 5G can spur innovation in the region

We are on the cusp of a true connectivity evolution, writes Colina.
Robert Voigt
We are on the cusp of a true connectivity evolution, writes Colina.

In a world where technology touches every aspect of our lives, it is no wonder that digital transformation is the word of the season. Organisations in the region and entire industries are now looking at how to accelerate their digital transformation, with some leading the pack.

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into the heart of an organisation, allowing it to make fundamental operational changes. This digitalisation is enhancing the lives of everyone across the world, making its way into day to day transactions and subtly making them more efficient and user-friendly. Digitalisation is also restructuring entire industries and spending on digital transformation in the Middle East, Turkey, & Africa is expected to reach $40 Billion by 2022, according to reports from IDC.

As UAE organisations embark on their digitalisation journey, their transformation will be taking place on three levels; External – the customer experience, Internal – the business operations, and Holistic – the entire organisation; therefore the transformation journey must be all encompassing and include all aspects of the business and its functions. A common thread on all three levels of transformation is technology and communication, therefore the robustness of networks is essential to the success of their digitalisation, and 5th generation wireless (5G) promises to provide faster more efficient connectivity that will accelerate organisation-wide digitalisation.

5G is not simply a faster network for our mobile phones, it is the backbone of everything we expect organisations of the future to be

5G is not simply a faster network for our mobile phones, it is the backbone of everything we expect organisations of the future to be; smart, automated and connected, once they’ve completed their digital transformation journey. The impact of 5G is expected to be dramatic industry-wide, as faster wireless is at the heart of future innovations. Emerging technologies like augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) all need reliable, fast wireless connectivity.

The implementation of 5G is an exciting chapter in the telecoms sector. Advantages 5G is expected to bring in include a reduction in download times by up 1000x through increased bandwidth, reduction in the network’s energy consumption by 90 percent, hundred percent coverage, and facilitating 10-year battery life on low-power devices.  But of course, all of that is only possible with a fibre network capable of handling that increased flow of data.

According to the 2017 Market Pulse Report, through 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, there will be a greater opportunity for IoT. A large share of the IoT market globally is currently focused on Smart Cities (26%), Industrial IoT (24%) and Connected Healthcare (20%). The market size is expected to grow to over 400 billion dollars by 2020, which is an increase of over 40 percent from 2016, and with the necessary fibre infrastructure in place, the Middle East will be able to support this growth.

Governments across the region have realised the impact a 5G network can have on the economy and its future sustainability, and have taken steps to ready themselves for 5G deployment. Etisalat is building 600 5G sites across the country as it prepares to launch 5G services for consumers later this year. Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), du and Virgin mobile’s parent company, is also working on setting up more than 700 5G-enabled base stations, with plans for 5G to go live by the end of the year.

While organisations and governments in the region have already began their digital transformation, as 5G goes live, it will accelerate their transformation by enabling fast data transmission, reception, and uninterrupted connectivity, while also ensuring noticeable growth and transformation opportunities in every industry. We are on the cusp of a true connectivity evolution, as 5G is expected to have an impact on every aspect of our lives, a will most certainly accelerate the digital transformation of the region as a whole.

Corning plays a critical role in 5G as it enables the fibre network infrastructure. It aims to build a 5G network that brings the fibre as close to the end user as possible allowing them to exchange data faster.

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