The next stage in 5G’s evolution is 5G-Advanced, which is set to be commercially launched in 2025.
3GPP released the first full set of 5G standards (Release 15) in 2018, making key upgrades to the mobile technology in Releases 16 (2020) and 17 (2022). 5G-Advanced will introduce several more organic improvements, as per 3GPP Release 18. But it will also introduce new radical features.
These include positioning improvements that aim to ultimately reach less than one centimetre (1 cm) accuracy in the future, enabling sidelink relays for a much more flexible approach for on-premises deployments, and extending the network coverage through Device-to-Device (D2D) communications.
“The new standards will be packed with a number of transformational features likely to enable the creation of new use cases and business opportunities not possible with existing 5G frameworks,” said an ABI Research paper.
Enhanced video streaming performance
One of these is enhanced MIMO performance, designed to address uplink-heavy applications and services like live video streaming. A 20 percent improvement in data rates would have a significant impact in an area such as 5G remote production, which is fast gaining traction with broadcasters.
5G-Advanced will also mark a key milestone for scaling navigation and wayfinding in public venues, such as sporting and entertainment arenas. A number of use cases will open up including AR/VR/XR experiences through providing accurate positioning information on moving targets like players.
“In 5G-Advanced, Extended Reality (XR) applications will promise monetary opportunities to both the consumer markets with use cases like gaming, video streaming, as well as enterprise opportunities such as remote working and virtual training,” explains Gu Zhang, 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure Principal Analyst at ABI Research.
“Another noticeable feature is AI/ML which will become essential for future networks given the predictive rapid growth in 5G network usage and use case complexities which can’t be managed by legacy optimisation approaches with presumed models. System-level network energy saving is also a critical aspect as operators need to reduce the deployment cost but assure network performance for various use cases.”
ABI Research expects that 75% of 5G base stations will be upgraded to 5G-Advanced by 2030.
The evolution of 5G
5G use among consumers is on the rise, almost by default, and there are opportunities for service providers to make more of their investment.
So says Deloitte in a new report, which found that the percentage of consumers with a 5G device rose from 56% in 2021 to 68% in 2022. A quarter of respondents said that they’re watching more streaming video thanks to 5G, and one-quarter of ‘Gen Z’ respondents said that they’re gaming more on their 5G phones than in the past.
Even so, approximately two-thirds of respondents said they want a better understanding of the new capabilities 5G offers. “Most users are doing what they already did with 4G, just faster and with better performance,” finds Deloitte. “They do not yet see any new revolutionary applications enabled by the technology.”
Couple this with other Deloitte research that suggests two-thirds of 5G phone users would value – and pay more for - premium bundles with ‘innovative 5G digital services and apps’ and you have a market waiting to be exploited.
To this end, 45% of service providers worldwide are using the promise of rich media and cloud gaming to drive 5G subscriptions and device sales, and nearly 40% include an unlimited option at the premium end of their tiered data plans.
Is there a ‘killer app’?
As it stands though – without any ‘killer app’ to excite the buyer – 5G and 5G-Advanced are enough of a reason to purchase.
“For most people, 5G does not need to be a life-changing revolution right now,” concludes Deloitte. “People will adopt it regardless, because it is new, and it will be frictionless to do so. It is inevitable, and that in large measure explains the indifference.”
Faster speed and seamless connectivity are priced-in by consumers. These attributes are expected. Therefore, it is up to the entertainment business and telcos to identify applications that happen “only on 5G” to really sell the much-heralded value of the technology into consumer consciousness.
“Unquestionably, all existing video applications will be ‘better on 5G’,” says Simon Forrest, principal technology analyst at Futuresource in relation to a paper sponsored by InterDigital. “The focus today is in distinguishing how all these advances combined will inspire companies to conceive new applications, products and services that were not possible before… those that can happen ‘only on 5G’.”
The Futuresource/InterDigital study is adamant that 5G networks will become commonplace within the next five years. Data carried over mobile networks is forecast to rise to 3.4 zettabytes globally by 2027, with every individual smartphone consuming on average 41 gigabytes of data monthly in the same year. Alongside this, video traffic is projected to expand to 79% of all data, equivalent to 2.7 zettabytes annually by 2027.
It is conceivable that the number of devices used to consume video and audio content over 5G-Advanced in the future will expand beyond smartphones and tablets to smartwatches, VR/AR head mounted displays, PCs, TVs and cars.
“5G will become the foundation of everyone’s mobile experience,” says the InterDigital report. “In fact, 5G could potentially unlock a route to market for seemingly far off possibilities such as interactive holographic renderings, or Fahrenheit 451-esque parlour walls capable of transporting consumers into fully immersive experiences for business, education and entertainment.”
Read more about the technology innovations and potential use cases of 5G in broadcast