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Interconnected realities, fueled by innovative new possibilities. Beyond improving connectivity, 5G technology is helping to transform lives. From smart meters that can monitor carbon scores to powering advanced medical diagnostics, 5G is reinventing next-gen industry capabilities. Quicker, more in-depth insights are helping companies improve processes and maximise operational efficiency.

Real-time computing — powered by revolutionary technology.  As companies look to capitalise on new revenue opportunities, they are increasingly turning towards 5G to boost communication and connectivity. This will pave the way for seamless, optimised solutions powered by data. 

Darren Yong, Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications at KPMG Asia Pacific, provides key insights into the evolving 5G landscape, including steps that organisations should take to mitigate risks and security concerns.

The future of 5G is here. The time for transformation is now.

Why should businesses be concerned with 5G?


More than just for downloading high-definition movies in the blink of an eye and reducing lag while gaming online, 5G is able to empower new user experiences, connect industries and create value for businesses where they may not have considered possible before. It will be critical in supporting the proliferation of technologies such as virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR), mass internet of things (IoT) and connected devices. Coupled with high-definition streaming and mass connectivity, commercial and personal applications are potentially vast.

As the fifth generation and latest manifestation of ever-evolving wireless mobile technology, 5G is being deployed via telecommunications networks around the world. It is expected that 5G will take just three and a half years to acquire 1 billion users, compared to four years for 4G and 12 years for 3G. This rapid rate of adoption can be attributed particularly to its affordable cost, ease of deployment and numerous applications for a spectrum of use cases. While America and China take the lead in terms of 5G implementation, investments in the technology are being made in countries worldwide. Singapore expects at least half of the nation to be covered by 5G networks by mid-2023, with nationwide coverage by 2025.

What will the 5G era look like and when will it come for Singapore?


The 5G era will embed emerging technologies as part of daily solutions to help solve personal and business challenges, reshape value chains, enhance revenue models, and optimise operations across many industries.

For instance, VR/AR could enable vivid delivery of lifestyle options (e.g. virtual closets) while mass device connectivity enables us to stream and manage concurrent data points on the fly to balance our personal and professional lives.

In this sense, the 5G era has arrived and there continues to be increasing investments in addressing such integrations into businesses such as manufacturing, health, enabling platforms and networked ecosystems. While we have started to see benefits of such investments, the true value of 5G integration has yet to reach its full potential.

We should also expect that while the 4G era has been largely defined by the use of Cloud technologies, the 5G era will see the rise of edge computing where we will see primary processing and storage eventually move closer to support high bandwidth devices and time-sensitive data.

What are the most important 5G applications and what trends can we expect due to 5G?


From KPMG’s research, we estimate that the combined market across five industries (industrial manufacturing, connected healthcare, intelligent transportation, environmental monitoring and gaming) for connectivity, software, hardware and services will be worth more than US$500 billion by 2023. These five industries are forecasted to enjoy impressive growth over the next few years, driven in part by the vastly improved connectivity arising from the intersection of 5G and edge computing.

Connectivity alone is only a modest fraction of the estimated total US$500 billion at approximately 11 percent, or US$55 billion. This is a sobering prospect for telcos when it comes to their traditional revenue sources – hence, we are also seeing telcos worldwide and in Singapore transforming themselves into technology companies.

On specific 5G applications, wireless connected robotics and fully automated assembly lines will be able to transform manufacturing, potentially eliminating the need for human operators. In healthcare, more efficient and data-populated communication networks will allow first responders to react faster, arming them with more information that could mean the difference between life and death. 5G networks can also enable hospitals with advanced diagnostics, 3D imaging, and wireless connections to robotic medical instruments in near real-time, making virtual/remote surgery possible. For consumers, 5G will help virtual travel and immersive experiences flourish while making autonomous drones and transport a more common sight. Finally, 5G will play a crucial role in the adoption and development of the Metaverse.

As it matures, 5G will not only be a key technology but also enable other technologies and trends in the long run.

What and how big are the opportunities 5G brings to our economy and businesses?


5G presents an avenue for businesses to improve efficiency and productivity as well as capitalise on new revenue opportunities. Digitising infrastructure – and streamlining existing digitised mechanisms – will significantly impact sectors that have historically not integrated technology into their process or relied on less efficient technology that may need to be digitised (for example, in manufacturing, utilities, logistics, infrastructure, etc).

As the economy digitises as a whole, this allows businesses to integrate within and across sectors and with consumers, augmenting value across the supply chain. For example, smart meters for homes/buildings or connected home products may be implemented ‘without wires’ and integrated into the grid and monitored for more precise carbon scores.

In turn, further opportunities are provided for the developer community (data scientists, engineers, software experts) in Singapore to invent new approaches and redesign current processes. Software and intellectual property developed locally can be exported to other countries, solidifying Singapore’s position as a leader in new and emerging technology.

How secure is 5G over 4G and how do we address security concerns relating to 5G?


As a technology, 5G has inbuilt security that is superior to 4G. As with most technologies, the risks around security relate more to the operating environment of the technology, and the processes and controls in place to reduce and mitigate these risks. As 5G enables more operations in dynamic, non-linear environments, the increased number of end-points, interactions and intrusion points in such increasingly complex ecosystems bring concern.

A more comprehensive enterprise risk framework, integration with other technologies – such as real-time monitoring – and enhanced cyber security are starting points in better anticipating and managing these risks. Policies, governance, roles, and procedures relating to data will also need to evolve to ensure timely integration with changing regulatory and reporting needs. As 5G use cases continue to be introduced, the ability to be agile in developing continuous interventions and leveraging best practices specific to each use case remain essential.

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