Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: How 5G Will Transform Business

Five industries that will be most affected by 5G

5G deployments are finally starting, and many industries will benefit from the low-latency network.

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The coming availability of 5G mobile networks will mark a major step forward for digitizing society, impacting a number of different industries that will benefit from the promised low latency and high speeds.

"This year is really when we're going to start to see true 5G being deployed," said Mark Hung, vice president at Gartner. "You can expect to see the first 5G phones come out in the first half of this year. But more importantly here in the US, we're going to see both AT&T and Verizon start deploying mobile 5G networks in select cities."

All of the major telecom operators have now announced 5G strategies, said Christian Renaud, research vice president at 451 Research.

"We're starting to see people do proof-of-concept deployments in target markets," typically high-population cities, Renaud said. "We're definitely not out of the hype, but we are in early deployments." Telecoms will work with an enterprise or some other organization to utilize something 5G, such as public safety or transportation, that will give them an example of customer value, Renaud said.

SEE: 5G technology: A business leader's guide (Tech Pro Research)

It's still early for 5G-enabled use cases for any organizations, particularly because equipment is not always available, Renaud said.

"5G is evolving," said Michele Pelino, principal analyst at Forrester Research. However, it is not yet seamless in any way. "It's going to take years for that to be the case," Pelino added. In the meantime, we will see more deployments in the context of particular locations and buildings.

"If I'm an enterprise organization and I want to have applications that are 5G-enabled in every site that I have plant operations in, or offices in, that's going to require something where you have a more sort of seamless capability for things like self-driving cars, to keep driving around in any type of neighborhood, or use cases where you're outside of sort of the four walls of an infrastructure," Pelino said. "It's going to take some time for that."

The value proposition of 5G networks is to support applications or use cases tied to very high bandwidth requirements or extremely low latency requirements, Pelino said.

Here are the five industries that will be most affected by 5G when rollout is complete.

1. Transportation

5G will enable self-driving cars and vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure setups, Pelino said. "Having extremely low latency for those kinds of things is absolutely critical, or else you could have a risk of an accident," Pelino said.

The emergence of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is growing faster than expected, Renaud said. "I think that's a chicken-and-egg situation, where when 5G is there, you'll see this explosion," he added. "5G is going to hit its stride and have a decent coverage area at about the same time that all of the automotive OEMs have said they're going to be release active, advanced driver-assistance systems and a lot more autonomy in the cars. If that 5G infrastructure is there for them to leverage, you'll get a lot quicker adoption curve for V2I."

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)

2. Manufacturing

Manufacturing 5G use cases are tied to the mission-critical concept of factory automation, or different processes that must happen in extremely tight time frames to ensure that revenue is not lost, Pelino said.

In this industry, 5G will also enable abilities like real-time production inspection and assembly line maintenance, Renaud said.

3. Healthcare

In healthcare, 5G will facilitate remote telesurgery and patient monitoring, Pelino said, giving doctors the ability to provide care from afar. The network could help augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications become more popular in medical workplaces, which could allow for more training of medical professionals, as well as field workers across other industries, she added.

Healthcare has typically been a laggard when it comes to technology deployment, Renaud said. But now, the regulatory environment is improving, and we've seen advances in areas like telemedicine that 5G will aid, he added.

4. Energy

Oil, gas, electricity, and other critical infrastructure will be better connected once 5G is rolled out, Renaud said.

"Those industries have a lot of infrastructure that they haven't connected in the past," Renaud said. "It may be remote, it may be cost-prohibitive to get Ethernet to a substation or a transmission line that's hundreds of miles away. Those industries have a lot to gain by these technologies." It also will allow for remote transmission tower monitoring and improved security, he added.

5. Smart cities

5G will improve all aspects of smart cities, include transportation, smart buildings, and smart metering, Pelino said. "It's tied into that incredible low-latency capabilities where you really need to know what's happening within the infrastructure of a city or of a building immediately," she added.

Because 5G allows for network slicing, public safety sectors in cities can also use it without fear of competing for bandwidth access, Renaud said. This is particularly important for emergency services, he added. 

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