5G beyond the smartphone

Delivered by DHL

In the new mobile revolution, the latest handsets are just the tip of the iceberg.

They are here! The recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona saw the launch of several 5G ready smartphones, from manufacturers including established players such as Huawei, LG, Samsung and new entrants, like China’s Xiaomi. The hardware on show is impressive: Some phones are foldable, use one of the most advanced Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipsets, 4,000 – 4,500 mAh batteries, five cameras. What matters most to the industry, however, is that these devices are the first consumer products built to take advantage of the new generation of mobile data technology, which promises 10 to 100 times today’s download speeds, lower power consumption and better connectivity.

Early customers may have to wait for those benefits, however. The rollout of 5G networks is in its early stages, and widespread availability of the technology may be years away. When it arrives, it won’t just be consumers that benefit. Indeed, it is arguable that many of the characteristics of 5G will have a bigger impact on industry. Vastly increased network capacity will enable millions of devices to connect to one-another. Low latency and the development of edge-computing capabilities will allow reliable, real-time control of machines over wireless networks. And 5G lets operators tailor sections of their networks for different use-cases, optimising the power, bandwidth and latency characteristics to suit internet of things (IoT) devices or autonomous vehicle communications, to take just two examples.

The potential of 5G in business and industry is huge. In logistics, for example, 5G could pave the way for low cost connected sensors that can track and communicate the location and condition of products, packages and parcels across the world. With batteries that last for months, the same sensor could monitor a product from the production line, through warehouses and distribution networks and all the way to a retailer’s shelf. For the first time, that would give companies 100% real time visibility of their inventory, supply chains and sales. And analysis of the data generated by such sensors would provide new insights that would them to streamline and optimise their supply chains from end to end.

Before that potential becomes a reality, however there are significant barriers to overcome. It will take time and a lot of money to develop essential new low-power wide area networks (LPWANs). It will also be a huge task to achieve interoperability between networks because of proprietary standards. And preparations for large-scale IoT deployment are likely to be extremely time intensive.

Despite these challenges, at DHL we believe anything is possible with the right partners and a co-creation mindset. Our consultative approach brings us into close collaboration with technology customers and strategic partners to contribute our deep sector expertise and proven best practice. That’s why we are already collaborating to push the pace of change, looking specifically at the low latency of 5G, which makes it a key enabler for autonomous driving, and the low-energy benefits of LPWANs, which allow new globally utilisable tracking and condition monitoring capabilities for parcels and devices. If you would like to help accelerate joint development and enable rapid prototyping, we would love to hear from you! Let’s innovate the future together.

Rob Siegers, President, Global Technology at DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation. This article was first published in DHL’s Delivered magazine.