Imagine the possibilities as that percentage goes up with the Internet of Things (IoT) driven by 5G. Connected sensors on an assembly line will be able to alert operators working remotely to malfunctions before they happen. Workers who used to run large machinery at a construction site will be able to operate those same machines remotely as well. And that’s just a nano-sized glimpse of the promise IoT holds.
It’s this promise that has led to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bain to call 5G a priority of Canada’s digital economy, and insist “the era of the smart city is dawning.” The impact 5G will have on our society is vast, and is still taking shape.
So when will it arrive? There is a good deal of mystery surrounding the timing of a 5G launch. Some timetables point to it arriving in Canada in 2020. But that schedule could be sped up. One thing’s for sure: without 5G and a new generation of wireless, it’s tough to see how IoT can realize its full potential.
Important initial steps have been made. The Ontario government announced a $16 million partnership last year with Chinese networking and telecommunications equipment maker Huawei with the goal of accelerating the development process. Bell has completed their first 5G trial with Nokia and Telus held a successful trial with Huawei in their 5G Living Lab in Vancouver. But much work is still to be done.
Those not in the mobile space will likely think of 5G as simply coming after 4G. That’s kind of how things have played out going back to the days of 2G which took us from analog to digital and enabled simple interfaces. 3G allowed greater consumption of data and helped drive the app revolution. 4G has enabled a desk-top-like web and app experience on mobile devices. Needless to say, 4G has a lot of fuel left in the tank.
Assuming it lives up to its billing, 5G will be more than sequential. It’ll be exponential – like the difference between dial-up and broadband. 5G has the potential of redrawing the lines of what’s possible around connectivity. It moves us from a world where you do things on your devices – on smartphones, on tablets – to a universe where you to do things across devices – devices that will increasingly do things proactively for you.
North America will see 5-fold growth in mobile data traffic by 2021, according to the Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index. And 5G will be faster – much faster – with near-instantaneous downloads, less buffering, and almost no delays from a connection standpoint. 5G will be far more energy efficient. Sensors on a 4G network have to remain connected to the network at all times, which drains battery power. 5G-enabled wireless devices don’t have the same constraints and can go as much as a few years without a battery recharge or replacement.
5G could bring connectivity even to some of the most remote places on the planet, where building hardwired infrastructure is next to impossible and certainly cost-prohibitive. 5G could vastly accelerate efforts well underway across public and private sectors to include more populations financially. Not having to scale hardwired infrastructure could decrease – if not eliminate – the use of transport equipment, wires, lines, workers, and more required to build that infrastructure. Done on a global scale, this could reduce our carbon footprint.
5G improves not only how people connect with each other – but how people connect with machines and how machines connect with other machines. In the nearer term, a 5G economy can create new revenue streams of commerce within fast-emerging Smart Cities. A public transport system that leverages 5G beacon technology communicates with your mobile phone or wearable and deducts ride fare from wherever it is you store your money as long as it’s connected. Cities eliminate costs associated with paper tickets, ticket machine upkeep, and fare collection.
Within those cities especially, retailers and their consumers could have much-improved personalized and customized services. Inventory management will happen faster and better because of intelligent reordering in the B2B supply chain. Consumer goods that have an expiration date, that undergo wear and tear, or that simply run out will reorder themselves.
The deployment of 5G may be a few years away, but the time to start placing bets is now. That’s certainly the case for many of us in the payments space. At Mastercard, we’re working with our partners to lay the groundwork for enabling secure commerce on and across all devices. In partnership with our bank customers, we’re scaling Masterpass, a solution that allows you to make a purchase online in a hyper-secure way without the hassle of entering your credentials each time.
It’s been said that the “great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” We are moving in the direction of a new generation of technology that can define a new generation of commerce. Bringing that opportunity to life – fulfilling the potential of 5G – is not a solo expedition. It’s a journey of partnership that begins now.
Jason Davies is VP of Digital Payments & Labs, Mastercard Canada
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