The Next Big Generation

Why 5G is the ‘next big thing’ that will drive growth in a wide range of markets.


As members of the global semiconductor business, we are continually looking to identify the next big thing (NBT) that will drive market growth. Typically, we try to predict which new product – from smart vehicles to wearable electronics – will become the next mass-market item that will boost our industry into a successively higher orbit. Thanks to the innovators and visionaries among us, there are many candidates. They include futuristic sunburn-avoidance sensors that monitor your exposure to UV radiation while clipped to your clothing, beach blanket or possibly even a fingernail and extended uses for your phone such as projecting a heads-up display of driving directions on your windshield.

But 2019’s NBT is shaping up to be broader than these types of applications. It could very well be the next generation of highly efficient 5G mobile networks, which will far surpass current 4G LTE technology with much faster speeds and low latency of mere milliseconds.

Global research firm Gartner has forecasted that more than 14 billion connected devices will come into use this year. Advanced 5G networks will have the scalability and energy efficiency to serve the skyrocketing number of connections. At Advantest, we see five major sectors driving the rapid development and adoption of 5G technology: automotive, medical, retail, mobile and Big Data. Each of these will benefit greatly from the advantages inherent in 5G including faster response times, greater memory capacity, longer battery life and broader connectivity.

Applications enabled by 5G networks, such as mobile broadband and massive IoT connections, will require new approaches. A major need is network slicing, a means of delivering multiple network instances (such as 4G LTE and 5G) over one common infrastructure. Not only will this provide the flexibility and cost efficiency desired by customers, but it also will reduce cost of ownership and facilitate the development of new networking products and services.

While 5G will be able to provide much faster signal speeds over greater bandwidths, it also brings the somewhat counterintuitive benefits associated with operating at slower speeds. With regard to IoT devices, 5G opens the door to using a narrower spectrum to achieve connectivity over greater distances and longer battery life. For example, connected devices that don’t require constant monitoring will be able to check in with the network only as needed so that they are not consuming power 24/7.

When 5G is fully implemented, signal latency will be reduced below 10 milliseconds, resulting in network operating speeds up to 100 times faster the today. In addition to benefiting current applications, lower latency will enable many next-generation, mission-critical applications such as industrial automation, virtual and augmented reality, online health and medical services, and aerospace and military systems.

Of course, several aspects of 5G remain to be worked out. One key is industry standards, which must evolve to handle a much higher connection density due to the enormous number of networked IoT devices. Specifications indicate that 5G networks will be able to accommodate densities as high as a million connected devices packed into an area of 0.38 square mile, compared to approximately 2,000 such devices on today’s networks.

And to avoid data overload and reduce round-trip latency, advances must be made in edge computing, in which data is processed near the edge of the network on smart devices instead of in a centralized cloud environment. By applying edge computing to information collected by IoT sensors, the findings can be pre-processed so that only selected data is passed along for central processing. This will help in managing the colossal increase in data that is coming with 5G.

While hurdles remain, the finish line is within sight. The winners will be the companies that align with their customers to design and develop the new 5G components that will enable the coming generation of computing and communications.


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