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Gazing into the 5G future – the view from the bridge

By
February 20, 2022
8
minute read

You ain’t seen nothing yet. So says Cristiano Amon, CEO of leading wireless technology company Qualcomm Incorporated, about the transformative potential of 5G and artificial intelligence.

Talking to Rakuten Group Chairman & CEO Mickey Mikitani, Amon described how 5G will enable billions of devices to come online for the first time. “All of a sudden, you have real-time data and contextual information from everything. We will see the development of AI like we’ve never seen before.”

Amon made these remarks during an October 13 virtual keynote interview with Mikitani at Rakuten Optimism 2021, Rakuten’s premier business conference. During the session on “How 5G Will Empower the Future,” Amon went on to outline how the combination of AI and 5G will transform the automotive industry, the retail industry, the healthcare industry, manufacturing and many other sectors. “In the 80s, or the 90s, you had to build the biggest possible factory so that you had the scale,” he said. “Now with smart manufacturing and 5G connecting factories and private networks, you can manufacture anywhere you want. Everything can be controlled from the cloud, and it’s bringing manufacturing to different locations. So it’s an incredible opportunity.”

“5G will be like electricity... (at) some point in the future we're not going to talk about use cases anymore, we're just going to assume it's there."
- Cristiano R. Amon, CEO, Qualcomm Incorporated
Rakuten Optimism 2021: "How 5G Will Empower the Future" featuring Qualcomm Incorporated CEO Cristiano Amon and Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani

No such thing as an IT company

Pointing out that all kinds of companies — from banks to biotech companies to agricultural producers — are now using AI, Mikitani suggested that “there is no such thing as the IT industry or an IT company anymore. Every company is an IT company.”

Mikitani also highlighted how the “network itself has become more intelligent. The network itself has become AI.” Amon agreed, adding: “We never thought about network as a platform for innovation. But that’s what we’re going to see.” Qualcomm is a key technology partner for Rakuten Mobile, which is now rolling out 5G across Japan. As Amon explained, Rakuten Mobile is an “incredible postcard of what the future network needs to look like to become this platform for innovation… I feel that the new golden era of telecom is about to start.”

5G democratizes video and broadcasting-on-demand

As they discussed how 5G will change the way people lead our lives, the two leaders touched on the implications for video consumption and broadcasting. Noted Amon: 5G will “democratize video” allowing people to have continuous access to HD video streams. 5G will do to video “what 4G did to music,” he explained. “People don’t carry CDs anymore; you can stream anything.”

“There is no such thing as the IT industry or an IT company anymore. Every company is an IT company."
- MICKEY MIKITANI, CHAIRMAN & CEO, RAKUTEN GROUP

Building on that theme, Mikitani highlighted how 5G will change the very definition of media so that it too will be “more democratized.” Added Mikitani, with 5G, anybody “can become a broadcaster. Everyone can become an actress, or actor or superstar.”

One of the key differentiators of 5G is its ability to use millimeter wave spectrum, which supports very fast throughput and high levels of capacity. “You can’t get the full benefit of 5G without millimeter wave,” Amon noted. “And it’s good that consumers in Japan today can buy millimeter wave-capable devices.”

Moving ahead, these devices could come in many shapes and sizes, changing our perception of what a 5G-capable device looks like. As 5G makes mobile networks faster and more responsive, the smartphone could eventually cede its position as the preeminent computing platform to smart glasses supporting “fully immersive augmented reality,” Amon contended.

Rakuten Optimism 2021: "How 5G Will Empower the Future" featuring Qualcomm Incorporated CEO Cristiano Amon and Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani

Closing tomorrow’s digital divide today

Of course, 5G isn’t just about futuristic technology and cool new gizmos. It also promises to give more people access to vital services, such as education, healthcare and other public services. Amon noted how 5G can connect schools, underserved rural and suburban communities and libraries.

“It (5G) is going to also help us democratize computing power... we should be thinking about really closing the digital divide, not only of today, but also the digital divide of tomorrow."
- Cristiano R. Amon

The technology could also help start-ups and other small businesses to be more competitive. “There’s another capability of 5G that is not being discussed,” Amon said. “It’s going to also help us democratize computing power.” He explained that people who can connect to the cloud will have access to almost unlimited computing power. “We should be thinking about really closing the digital divide, not only of today, but also the digital divide of tomorrow,” he added.

Rakuten Optimism 2021: "How 5G Will Empower the Future" featuring Qualcomm Incorporated CEO Cristiano Amon and Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani
Qualcomm Incorporated CEO Cristiano Amon and Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani at Rakuten Optimism 2021.

More efficient economic activity: Less waste and lower emissions

Equipped with better information, individuals and organizations can make better decisions. At the same time, 5G is designed to deliver fingertip remote control over machinery and other equipment. With real-time information and better control, all kinds of economic activity will become more efficient and less wasteful, thereby curbing climate change. Amon noted that when 5G is fully deployed in the U.S. (by 2025), it could reduce emissions by the equivalent of taking 81 million cars off the streets.

Ultimately, 5G connectivity may become so pervasive that people and most of their possessions will always be connected. “5G will be like electricity,” Amon told the conference. “Today we talk about use cases. But some point in the future we’re not going to talk about use cases anymore, we’re just going to assume it’s there.”

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Article originally published on Rakuten Today on Oct 13, 2021