5G's business opportunities within the MENA region
Priya Wadhwa
10X Technology

5G's business opportunities within the MENA region

5G by Etisalat was the highlight of GITEX 2019. SME 10X delves deeper into its possibilities and road ahead.

Ever skipped watching a video or bounced off a website because you saw the buffering sign? You’re not alone. It’s the bane of e-commerce, Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies and almost every business that is online today. Those missed opportunities and delays quickly add up in dollars.

While improvements in 4G have reduced this to a large extent, 5G has the potential to completely eradicate the problem with 100 times more capacity to transfer data than 4G, as per reports from Consumer Technology Association.

That means even hours long video content can be downloaded within seconds, driverless cars become safer, and AI grows to reach its potential of supercomputing. Their impacts on the world are game changers.

How is this possible? It is because of the way 5G works.

5G Explained

Data travels in frequencies. For those familiar with radio technology, the data is transferred on lower frequencies, which by nature, travel on longer wavelengths. That means they can travel longer distances and have larger reach, however, they can only carry a limited amount of data.

More data needs higher frequency, which reduces the wavelength and its travel distance. This is why, for example, when you’re using Wi-Fi transmitted from a router a couple of rooms down the hall, the internet is there, but the speed reduces.

4G travels at frequencies of up to 6GHz. Now, imagine 5G that travels on frequencies between 24-96GHz. It has the capacity to carry data many times more quickly. Moreover, because of its capacity, it is also responsible to commands a lot faster. This is called its latency capability.

For reference, 4G responds within 0.045 seconds, while 5G does in 0.001 second.

That’s not all. 5G can personalise web experiences for every individual through a technique called ‘Network Slicing’, which is done on the cloud. Essentially, this enables every user to set up their own web network, receiving faster speeds instead of them being shared, as is the case currently.

The revolutionary impact of 5G

The increasing data capacity will have the highest impact on Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered technologies, which are increasingly being incorporated across industries. The faster machines can learn and process data, the sooner they will be able to grow in the roles they play in our lives — from mobility to medicine and beyond.

For instance, imagine an autonomous vehicle. It needs hundreds of data points and the ability to process them as fast as possible in real time to make a decision on what it should do next. We know accidents can occur in split seconds; so for a driverless car to be safer on the streets, it needs a good and stable 5G connection.

Moreover, even in everyday applications, 5G can bring Internet of Things (IoT) devices to the forefront. Currently, people have between 3-10 connected devices in their homes or offices. This would naturally see an increase.

Other applications of 5G are gaming, virtual reality and the health industry.

The gaming industry is booming, expected to reach $4.4 billion in the UAE by 2022. Institutions such as the Dubai Internet City are already signing on companies to bring to the city. The industry has already seen the evolution from single player to multi-player games and eSports championships, for which faster response rates and data connection is key.

It is the same for VR, which will transform meeting in the professional along with the personal spheres of people. Moreover, it will also influence the way people interact, socialise work, play and consume content.

The case for 5G in the medical industry is one of the most sought after solutions. A use case scenario could see specialised doctors administering a surgical procedure through a robot on a remote patient. While this may happen decades down the line, it is a real possibility.

However, this brings us to a challenge that the industry needs to overcome. Many of these solutions need more and more places to be connected by 5G, which needs advanced technology and infrastructure that is expensive.

The road ahead

So while the potential of 5G is massive in almost every sphere of our lives, there are also challenges to overcome. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest ones. With more devices being connected there are more entry points for hackers. However, before we reach that point, there are infrastructural challenges to overcome.

Since 5G travels on short distances, it works best with devices that in direct line of connection. Walls, furniture and even rain in the air can disrupt and hinder signals. The plan to deal with this challenge for companies across the world is to simply install many more nodes across every of every street in the area desired to be covered.

This is not only time and labour intensive, but also a very expensive solution which providers across the globe are implementing.

Hardware supporting 5G also needs to be built and be more commonly adopted by businesses and people around the world.

It is only when the hardware supporting 5G, and the 5G network transmitting points are put in place and adopted by a majority section of industries, that we can practically start making the most out of them.

Etisalat has already introduced 5G in the country, which businesses can leverage to advance their AI systems and technologies. It may take a few more years for us to see impactful use cases in the works, but we at SME10X are definitely excited about how the next 10 years will transform powered by 5G.