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TMC event on the networked society

On 1 December, the ECCT's Telecom, Media & Content (TMC) committee jointly hosted a lunch with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Taipei on the topic "5G and living in the networked society" featuring guest speaker Mats H Olsson, Senior Vice President and Head of Ericsson's Asia Pacific operations.The speaker presented some findings from his company's latest report (the 2015 Ericsson Mobility Report, an annual report released in November 2015) which looks at market trends, behaviour and predictions for the year 2021 related to the Internet of Things or the networked society.

At present approximately US$2.7 billion worth of e-commerce transactions are conducted every day, 133 million hours of YouTube videos are watched, 2.7 billion photos are posted and 328 million apps are downloaded. Moreover, 700,000 new internet users are added every day. Looking ahead to 2021, Ericsson predicts that there will be 6.4 billion smart phone subscriptions, 9.1 billion mobile subscriptions, of which 7.7 billion will be mobile broadband subscriptions. The main driver of traffic from now onwards will be video, which will increase 14-fold from current levels. By region, the Asia Pacific region will see the highest rate of growth.

While Long Term Evolution (LTE or 4G) will see the highest growth rate over the next six years, WCDMA/HSPA (3G) will also continue to rise while GSM (2G) will gradually decline but remain part of the subscription mix for less-developed countries and users. According to Olsson, 5G will take some more time to develop and is not likely to be widely available until around 2020. After that, he estimated that it would take another five years to become mainstream. The main reason holding up a faster roll-out of 5G technology is standardization, more specifically, the difficulty in reaching consensus on standardisation among the various stakeholders.The next few years will see a large increase in the number of networked things. According to Olsson, wherever there is a benefit or a good business case for things to be connected they will be. Everything from cars to appliances to pets could be connected to the cloud and other devices.

Mobility, broadband and cloud computing are enabling a new era that is disrupting a number of industries. For examples Uber has disrupted taxi services, Airbnb is challenging accommodation providers while Coursera is challenging traditional education models. We are just beginning to realise the potential opportunities of the new era. According to Ericsson's Mobility Report, the number of connected devices will rise to 28 billion by 2020. While the number of mobile phones, PCs and tablets will not rise by much, machine-to-machine (M2M) connected devices will see the sharpest growth (up almost five-fold between 2015 and 2021 to 10.7 billion devices). According to Olsson, South Korea has the highest penetration of 4G subscribers (75% of the population) and the best 4G infrastructure while Taiwan has the highest consumption of data.

5G will bring great opportunities. The increased efficiency and ultra-fast communication of 5G will enable, for example automated platooning (automated driving of several vehicles in convoy with very small gaps between vehicles), remote control of machinery (to be used for example in mines to eliminate the need for people doing dangerous jobs), intelligent logistics, road assistance, connected vehicles and goods tracking.

While the future is bright, there are many challenges to overcome. Industry performance requirements cannot be met with 4G technology. 5G requirements are extreme and diverse. For example, according to Olsson, for connected vehicles to work safely, much faster speeds (throughput and latency of 10-100 times faster) are needed. In addition, energy demands will need to be cut to a fraction of current levels while battery life will need to be increased 10-fold. Moreover, with a ten-to-one-hundred-fold increase in the number of devices and a 1,000-fold increase in the amount of data generated, much larger, more dynamic and secure networks and data centres will be needed to store and process data.

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