Think you know how 5G and IoT will change the world? Think again

If you look at the highest profile speakers at the latest Code Conference, there was a common theme of their spectacular success. It was driven by mobile, specifically smartphone apps, often connected to 4G networks.

Sketches of IoT
Shannon Lucas

VP, Head of Emerging Business Global Customer Unit

Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat and even Facebook.  All can thank 4G for their rise to the top of the digital platform economy.

A good way to illustrate this is by looking at the global app economy.  App analytics firm App Annie estimates the app economy will be worth USD 6.3 trillion by 2021, up from USD 1.3 trillion in 2016, while time spent in apps will rise to 3.5 trillion hours from 1.6 trillion. This explosive growth, both past and future, will be driven by reliable, high-speed connectivity.

But the influence of these new digital giants – many from Silicon Valley – goes much farther than that of course.  They’ve disrupted industry and after industry and changed the way many of us live not just our daily lives but moment to moment.

It’s an epochal shift, and it was also an unexpected one.

Video as the killer app for 4G

When Ericsson launched 4G, we were among many who saw video as the killer app.  And that’s proved to be true – mobile data traffic grew 55 percent between Q4 2016 and Q4 2017 alone, after four quarters of between 65 and 70 percent year on year growth. And much of this is video – we estimate that video will constitute 75 percent of data traffic by 2023!

But 4G also started these digital chain reactions that we just didn’t see coming, sparking what our CTO Erik Ekudden recently called the “instant society.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a real thing

Today we are in the early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is building on the third digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.  And the speed is accelerating.  I saw this clearly at the recent IoT world – the converging trends across technologies and industries that are truly creating a perfect storm for industry digitalization.

We are only now seeing the deep impact of all this.  Last year, Kara Swisher and company focused at Code Conference on the convergence of tech, media and politics.  This continued this year, with interviews with top Facebook execs like COO Sheryl Sandberg focused on privacy concerns and the overall responsibility of tech companies towards society..

Code also looked forward towards emerging technologies such as blockchain (and bitcoin) and the newest developments in AI, with Facebook announcing the formation of a blockchain team at the event. It will be interesting to see if this can help with fake accounts, news and ads.

Code Conference


I was particularly impressed with a panel of incredible women – Aileen Lee, managing partner of Cowboy Ventures, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and CEO of Boardlist and Megan Smith, the former Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. and now the founder of Shift7 – on how there are no excuses anymore for companies not to have diversity at the leadership level.

Brian Chesky of AirBnB also crushed it on the importance of tech companies being responsible to all their stakeholders, as did US Senator Mark Warner talking about transparency.

5G is about much more than consumers

At Ericsson we’re also focused on the future, specifically the possibilities of 5G, IoT and distributed cloud together.  They represent a step change compared with 4G alone, in terms of speed and capacity but also in terms of potential societal impact.  These are technologies designed for industry (as well as consumers) and designed to embed connectivity into every sector of society.

In 2026, we see an anticipated USD 619 billion revenue opportunity for telecom operators addressing industry digitalization with 5G technology. The largest opportunity for operator-addressable 5G-related revenues will be in the manufacturing and energy and utilities sectors. We predict that, by addressing 10 key industries, there is a market potential of 36 percent revenue growth globally by 2026.

Making Dallas a smart city

A good example is our work with the City of Dallas to address congested traffic in Dallas and a wider region covering 13 counties.  We’ll reuse existing traffic sensors using our Ericsson Connected Urban Transport to automate and dynamically control traffic lights, warning signals and even the deployment of workers.

So while Uber changed the way individuals drove and got rides.  With IoT and 5G, we will be changing the underlying infrastructure.

The true scope of these newer trends is still an unknown.  Just like it’s also unknown exactly how people, businesses and governments will make full use of 5G. But I am confident that if I come back to Code Conference in five to seven years, we’ll be talking about impacts of 5G and IoT that we can’t imagine now.


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