The concept of 5G – fifth generation – is generally used to indicate new technologies and standards for mobile communication which are subsequent to the fourth generation (4G/IMT1 – Advanced). It is capable both to increase the performance of the services currently offered and to support new services such as the Internet of Things (IoT), the so called M2M (Machine to Machine) communications and transmission and communication services in emergency and public safety situations.
One of the main features of this technology is represented by a set of system characteristics, including a better quality of the service in terms of higher speed and lower data transmission latency, with the chance to get high transmission capacities and/or a very low delay rate in the numerous applications.
Therefore, 5G will depict a framework which integrates the existing technologies and supports a heterogeneous environment of fixed and mobile networks, characterized by a multiplicity of radio interfaces and can allow the simultaneous connection of a major number of devices, a greater efficiency in the use of the radio spectrum (higher volume of data per unit of area), a lower battery waste and less probability of a service interruption.
The uphill battle towards the development and the standardization of 5G systems began in 2013, is still ongoing and is also carried on by the European Union thanks to its investments in various research projects.
To start with, it is important to remind that the telephone networks are classified in terms of generations according to the diverse functionalities and the recent technological evolutions and can be so summarised:
- second generation (2G) networks, which were born in 1991, were different from the first generation ones for their digital nature and represented a set of standards that governed the mobile telephony, but neglected the data transmission;
- the third generation (3G), which was born in 2000 – but it arrived in Italy only in 2005 – and was focused on internet, video calls and mobile TV;
- the fourth generation of mobile technology (4G/LTE) networks, that was developed in 2011 to boost the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, cloud computing and video conferencing.
Then, when will 5G arrive?
The implementation of the 5G network is going through an experimental phase in some areas of Italy and 2020 has been announced as the year of achieving a greater coverage and improved services. The engaged operators are active in various Italian cities to make the appropriate tests: Vodafone is covering Rome, Milan, Naples and Bologna; Tim is working in Turin, Genoa, San Remo, San Marino, Bari and Matera and Wind Tre is acting in Prato and L’Aquila. Months ago, Tim and Fastweb promised broadcasting 5G to everyone by 2020 and Vodafone announced on its official website a progressive coverage of the Italian territory over the next few years.
There is no doubt that the economic prospects for Italian companies, due to the implementation of the 5G network, are up-and-coming. In this regard, sector specialists gathered in Rome in July 2020 at the “Telco per l’Italia – 360° Summit”, a convention focused on the ultra-broadband, 5G and development opportunities for Italian businesses and took stock of the situation.
The Summit was also the opportunity to present the survey “5G for business: a 2030 market compass”, brainstormed by Ericsson and Arthur D.Little (a management consulting firm specialised in strategy and operations management that offers professional services to companies). According to this survey, the fifth generation of mobile networks will be the driving force for the digitization of the Italian industries and will enable an important business-potential for companies in the ICT sector and for operators.
More in detail, the survey has analysed the Italy-related data and underscored that 5G will open the way to new and significant business opportunities also in the industrial sector: in 2030, indeed, the fifth generation will foster investments of 32 billion dollars within the digital transformation process of some specific industrial sectors such as public safety, health, financial services, agriculture, media and entertainment, public transport, energy and utilities, automotive, manufacturing.
Besides, the survey has come up with an analysis on the most 5G-concerned applications and has pointed out, among these, video services, automation services and real-time control of industrial processes, vehicles connected in support of a smarter mobility, an enhanced road safety and a continuous exchange of information with other vehicles, transport authorities and the transport infrastructure.
“5G is a platform for innovation, which can accelerate the ongoing digital transformation process, making Italy an increasingly competitive and attractive country in the global scenario. It is necessary that 5G will be considered as a critical infrastructure at the national level and that operators will benefit the right conditions to make affordable investments from the beginning”, said Riccardo Mascolo, Head of strategy and business development at Ericsson Italia.
All the benefits of 5G technology in Italy will depend more on initiatives and advances in the sector in other countries. As a matter of fact, it will be crucial that the national 5G architecture is interconnected with the global one, namely with the same technology developed by other countries, especially those ones with which Italy has the greatest political and economic relations. In this regard, the EU has recognize the potential deriving from 5G technology since several years and in its 2016 action plan pinpointed 2020 as the deadline by which all the countries of the alliance would have owned the technology. The challenge to face is to consolidate its leadership in sectors where Europe already plays a relevant role and, at the same time, foster the growth of sectors where there are considerable margins for development, by strengthening its production capacities and the competitiveness of its industries in the global market.