5G forecast to create almost 23m jobs within 15 years

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Steve Briggs, chief commercial officer at Seacom.
Steve Briggs, chief commercial officer at Seacom.

With 5G-enabled job growth forecast to be 22.8 million globally over the next 15 years, the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks is one of the major trends that will shape the ICT industry in 2021.

This is according to submarine cable and high-speed fibre-optic cable operator Seacom.

New kinds of connectivity such as 5G and WiFi 6, the future of cloud and edge computing, the rise of intelligent technology, privacy and cyber crime, and other developments in technology are fundamentally changing the ways we live and do business – and they are among the major trends SA should be paying attention to as we move into the new year, says the company.

Although 2020 was a difficult year, it has accelerated digital adaptation and transformation. If business leaders begin the new year thinking about how to take advantage of new technologies and introduce smart strategies, they will be better prepared to grasp the opportunities that better connectivity, cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) will provide, notesSeacom.

5G, WiFi 6 push the envelope

According to Steve Briggs, chief commercial officer at Seacom, 5G-enabled job growth has been forecast by Qualcomm to be greater than previously expected – up from 22.3 million to 22.8 million over the next 15 years. With 5G services expected to launch worldwide in 2021, the global economic potential for the fifth-generation technology is expected to create $13.1 trillion worth of revenue by 2035.

“The introduction and rollout of 5G is expected to transform any industry that relies on connectivity – and not just mobile connectivity. Telecoms giants are deploying and developing 5G phones and networks at a steady pace and 5G is becoming a highly contested subject in the US-China trade war. Predictions are that the amount of digital data created globally will be 163 zettabytes by 2025 – which shows the pace of digitalisation is accelerating,” notes Briggs.

“The challenge for South African networks, however, will be accessing the 5G spectrum to provide emerging digital services, and then finding ways to decrease costs.”

Last week, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa asked telcos to pay for the emergency spectrum issued during the COVID-19 disaster regulations.

The number of live 5G networks has increased significantly since the beginning of 2019, with more than 50 operators expected to offer 5G services in about 30 countries by the end of 2021.

As the perfect partner for 5G, WiFi 6 also started rolling out in 2020 and will gain more traction in 2021.

“As the number of devices on WiFi networks is expected to grow, so will the volume and quality of data that needs to be transferred. We can expect WiFi 6 to handle more information up to three times faster than its predecessor, with smarter capabilities,” notesBriggs.

Future of cloud and edge computing

Improved connectivity is good news, as more organisations are expected to embrace remote work. For companies that have not started investing in cloud infrastructure, there is no better time than now, asserts Briggs.

The cloud is being pushed to its limits, with cloud traffic expected to process 95% of all data centre traffic in 2021 compared to 88% in 2016, and grow by 41% within the next two years.

Cloud technology enables improved and secure communication, remote collaboration, and streamlines various business processes with effortless scalability, while edge computing brings information processes closer to where they’re needed, explains Briggs.

Rather than having information travel halfway across the globe, more cloud hosting services will put their physical servers closer to customers, improving connectivity speeds, customer experience, as well as security and privacy through edge computing.

For African countries that rely on European servers for most cloud services, this will be especially significant.

“The decentralisation of information could also democratise education in developing countries and allow more people to live as digital nomads. With the aid of cloud computing, hardware will be less of a concern in the future – replaced by a new generation of software. In the gaming industry, Google Stadia is a great example of this, as people will be able to run high-end games in full quality on something as simple as a tablet,” says Briggs.

Rise of intelligent technology

Briggs believes AI, automation and machine learning are indisputably laying the foundations of a digital future.

While many people may think AI will take jobs away from people, it is more likely to become a tool that people will use to complement their work, or allow them to focus their skills on tasks that are less menial and repetitive. AI is not going away, so businesses should be looking at ways to harness its power in 2021.

“Language model AIs have improved immensely over the last few years, and a shift is happening in the way we may interact with this tech in the near future. The revolutionary language model generative pre-trained transformer 3 looks promising, with many potential applications, including the creation of an AI workplace assistant that can be used to navigate business processes in natural conversation,”Briggs points out.

AI-optimised manufacturing has led to greater efficiency in outputs and product quality, while also reducing waste. AI is also transforming healthcare as it is becoming an increasingly reliable tool for doctors and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions.

Privacy and cyber crime

As digital transformation continues, so will the commodification of personal data, and increasingly people and companies will have to choose between the conveniences that digital platforms and services offer and keeping their data private.

“Many companies have been fined heavily for leaking user data, such as Equifax, as well as lacking transparency regarding advert personalisation, such as Google.

“While these fines are often a slap on the wrist for tech giants, privacy concerns will continue to be a priority into 2021 for individuals and businesses. Because the world lacks global privacy standards, consumer data has become ‘free game’ and AI has made collecting and using people’s personal information easier than ever,” Briggs notes.

The onus is also on businesses to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their customer data against cyber crime. If organisations want to avoid seeing themselves in a brand-damaging headline,Briggs advises them to make 2021 the year they take digital security seriously.

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