Quantum-leap technology advancements will enable on-demand services anytime, anywhere, with ubiquitous connectivity.
by Laureen R. Cook, Principal Telecoms, Media and Technology Advisor, IFC (World Bank)
Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) was introduced as the first 1G system in the Scandinavian countries in 1982. 2G was commercially deployed in 1992 and 3G launched commercially in 2001, allowing mobile data as a mainstream service. 4G has been deployed since 2012, and is still being deployed around the world in developing markets, and 5G is on the horizon for the early- to mid-2020s. On average, we deploy a new generation of mobile communications every 10 years. In 25 years’ time, we will have deployed 7G and be well underway with design of the specifications for 8G, where wireless high-definition video streaming and virtual reality are part of the everyday norm. We will have transformed ourselves from the Digital Era of the 1990s to 2020, to the Digital Era of Automation from 2020 and beyond, which will be an all-immersive, high-definition user experience, taking us seamlessly from Gigabytes GB = 109 of data to Zettabytes ZB = 1021.
The underlying drivers for all future network operators, both wired and wireless, will be the seamless delivery of services from device to device that will truly support the Continuously Connected Consumer (CCC). In order to enable on-demand services anytime, anywhere, with ubiquitous connectivity, there will be a quantum leap in technology advancements and investment opportunities in the following sectors: cloud services, cyber security, connected/autonomous vehicles, battery design, software defined networks (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV), machine-to-machine (M2M), smart homes & cities, and wind/solar power solutions. There will be an explosion in B2B and B2C apps in order to support eHealth, eAgriculture, eCommerce & eGovernment solutions, so that the user interface is easily accessible to all. These technology subsectors will all be required to effectively deliver, manage, store and parse our personal and professional high-bandwidth content across the multi-dimensional demands placed on our hectic daily lives.
As we look to our near future – the next 5 to 7 years – 5G promises an efficient mobile network that delivers a higher performance in terms of throughput at a reduced investment cost, increased energy efficiency, and the capability of supporting 10-100 connected devices over a 1000x bandwidth per-unit area simultaneously. 5G promises a superfast network comprised of the next generation of Wi-Fi-like small cells, offering continuous wide-area coverage. 5G also promises a truly converged fiber-wireless user experience whereby wireless will access millimeter wave bands (20-60GHz) with a spectral efficiency significantly enhanced over that of 4G, and will be able to support nomadic data access speeds of up to 10 Gbps. Wireless in its next genre becomes a myriad of wireless links connected to a fiber optic cable, providing latency of 1-10 milliseconds, limited only by the speed of light.
In 2020 there will be 10.7 billion mobile subscribers, representing 1 billion more people than those using mobile phones in 2015, and by 2040 there will be 17.1 billion mobile subscribers. Mobile broadband penetration will grow from 44% in 2015 to 60% worldwide in 2020 and mobile broadband traffic is projected to increase 70-fold between 2020 and 2030, according to the ITU. The number of connected devices will grow from 1.5 million in 2015 to 2.9 million in 2020, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, wearables, and others. The United States will account for the only western economy in the top ten mobile growth markets worldwide, with India, China, Indonesia, and Nigeria leading the way, and European countries being left out of the mix, according to the GSMA. This will mean a shift of consumer purchasing power as well as technology and innovation towards the developing world as Asia, Africa, and Latin America become dominant forces to reckon with as we approach the Digital Era of Automation from 2020 and beyond.
For every 10% increase in broadband penetration, there is a 1.34% increase in GDP in developing countries, according to the World Bank. These developing markets will foster the rise of entrepreneurship, creating new business models and opportunities in these countries for export to more developed markets. (A classic example has already been seen with the advent of the mobile money industry in Africa, which has been adopted in many developed markets.) This brings innovation, increased earnings, improved education, health, and welfare to families in the developing world. The demand for technology equates to an increased demand for a skilled labor force, regardless of sex. This rebalance of power in the telecom, media and technology sectors opens up myriad opportunities for young girls and women that were not available 25 years ago, even in the developed world.
According to the 2016 Intel Study, Decoding Diversity: The Financial and Economic Returns of Diversity in Tech, a global productivity boost of US$430 to $530 billion could be generated through closing the global tech industry’s female leadership gap. Every incremental percentage point in African-American and Hispanic representation at NASDAQ-listed tech companies can represent a 3% increase in revenues and a potential US$300 to $370 billion annual increase in revenue for the technology sector. With that in mind, it is up to us, as the leaders of this exciting, ever-changing industry, to embrace the positive economic impact that women have on our industry. To do so we need to incorporate diversity at the board and executive management levels in order to provide unconnected populations access to technology such as mobile broadband, improve the quality of people’s lives, and drive responsible corporate profits. This is truly the changing culture of communications from generation to generation, as required for the next 25 years and beyond.
Laureen R. Cook is Principa
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