Telstra CEO Andy Penn has outlined an upbeat assessment of how the rollout of 5G in conjunction with vastly increased network speed, capacity and the opportunities of the Internet-of-Things looks set to be a pivotal driver of the digitisation of the physical world and mass automation.
Unpacking some of the key elements of this disruptive transformation – the Fourth industrial revolution – at Telstra’s 2018 Vantage tech event in Melbourne, Penn classed the continued increase in compute power, and the lowering of the cost of availability of compute power as pivotal.
“More compute power is available in the hands of a couple of entrepreneurs in their garage today, for probably A$20 an hour, than there was 15 years ago in some of the major computer servers that were supporting Google’s world-wide network of Search,” he said.
“I get really geeky and excited about this sort of stuff because the extent of telecommunications innovation has been incredible. And it has needed to be as we meet the continual growth and demand for data and connectivity,” said Penn. “And we are now on the cusp of a major further development in telecommunications technology, and that’s 5G.”
However, Penn emphasised it won’t not be 5G on its own which will be the defining creative force behind the digital transformation. “It is 5G in conjunction with these other developments,” he said, adding “as you bring all of these things together, that is what is going to engage and create this incredible transformation.”
Delving deeper, Penn said there were three things 5G would be able to achieve in a different manner than previous forms of technology.
“The first is speed,” he said. “And the reason that that’s important is, as we move into a world of automation and robotics, whilst we can put up maybe with that slight annoying delay in relation to communications when it perhaps is voice, or perhaps we’re accessing a website, when it comes to things like autonomous driving, that latency sort of starts to become important.”
“When it comes to robotics, it becomes important as well,” he added. “One area where robotics is playing a critical role today is actually in health care.”
Secondly, Penn said capacity would prove to be another key reason why 5G would be a different proposition. “It’s one thing to be fast – we all know that when we get on the freeway, that’s great because we can generally get to our destination a little bit quicker. But if there’s 10,000 cars in front of us, good luck.”
“That’s called a capacity problem,” Penn said. “So we need to solve for both when it comes to mobile telecommunications and 5G is doing exactly that with 10 times the capacity of previous technologies, at a lower cost per gigabyte of data.”
Finally, Penn said the last reason 5G will be different is related to the concept of the Internet-of-Things.
“Previous mobile networks have been designed, essentially, to connect handsets, mobile phones, and tablets. The 5G is designed to also connect the billions of sensors and other pieces of equipment that will be attached in the future in the world of the Internet-of-Things,” he added.
“We’ve just been doing work with Linfox, as an example, where we’re putting telematics into all of their trucks on road to measure such things as the driver experience, what’s actually happening within the truck, what’s actually happening with the freight that’s being forwarded at the same time.”
“And this whole world will be clearly enabled by 5G,” Penn said. “5G is going to be transformational from a technology perspective in telecommunications. And in conjunction with those other technology innovations – with the increasing compute power, these connected devices which are producing masses of data, with Artificial Intelligence – it will lead to the physical world becoming infused with the digital world and it will lead to incredible automation.”