In terms of wireless connectivity, South Africa is in a fairly great space. Thanks to an expansive 4G infrastructure, both consumers and businesses can perform all manner of internet-related activities, such as stream high-definition videos and share huge company files – from just about anywhere (as long as there is coverage, of course). From an economic perspective, this has resulted in an explosion of innovation and development in the country over the last few years.

Yet 4G is only the tip of an ever-expanding iceberg. The next generation of mobile connectivity, 5G, looms on the horizon, and it’s only going to help data-hungry South Africa, and the entire African continent for that matter, grow even further. Thanks to its reportedly 10 times faster speeds and much lower latencies, as well as superior capacity capabilities, it’s no wonder that tech enthusiasts and thought leaders are excited for the yet-to-be-imagined innovations that lie ahead.

What Is the Current State of 5G?

The 5th Generation of wireless systems is still in its infancy. In fact, the world only recently just got a proper taste of 5G, compliments of the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. From devices broadcasting high-definition visuals straight from the bobsleds themselves, through to the one hundred cameras around the rink, creating 360-degree videos of the figure-skating (which users could stop and view at their own leisure, as a matter of interest), it was an exciting showcase for sure, and an entirely new way to experience the high-profile event.

The Winter Olympics only scratched the surface of what’s possible with 5G, however. There are countless other applications to be explored, but they’re all waiting for the wireless infrastructure to be fully rolled out. At the moment, trials are taking place all over the world (one took place here in South Africa in January, thanks to MTN, in partnership with Ericsson), but full implementation of the technology is only expected to occur in certain countries in 2020 and beyond. Where Africa falls into the timeframe largely depends on its mobile operators.

The Applications of 5G

Even if the infrastructure did exist right now, there aren’t many devices that would be able to take full advantage of it. Not a single smartphone today, for example, is capable of utilising 5G. Despite that, it’s still worth considering what’s to come over the next few years.

In its current form, and based on thinking and experimentation from innovators, 5G is going to benefit the likes of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its myriad of devices, aid in implementations in the Virtual Reality (VR) space, as well as boost Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. The latter has already seen some execution, thanks to the likes of Apple’s Siri and, more recently, Amazon’s Alexa, but those and other computer personalities are only going to become more powerfully useful as more bandwidth becomes available.

IBM, for instance, are exploring natural speech with their business AI, Watson. Imagine having it in a call centre, where anybody phoning in could ask it anything they want, in whatever language and dialect they speak. With 5G working in conjunction with IoT devices, Watson could potentially understand the caller’s needs in more detail, implement a solution remotely, and thus solve the customer’s problem in a much speedier manner. Moreover, the AI could transcribe the call into text the very moment it takes place, for potential future reference.

5G in a Local Context

South Africa, naturally, stands to benefit greatly from 5G. With eleven official languages, the above call centre scenario is certainly applicable. The mining sector, however, is a case in point of what the wireless technology can really do for the country economically. Despite much better conditions and improved efforts in recent years, injuries and deaths continue to occur in the industry today.

To solve this dilemma, mining organisations could potentially install a variety of different cameras within a quarry. They would then beam the high-quality visual footage to a user, who could then control the equipment as well as respective vehicles remotely – and, more importantly, safely. The very same devices in the pit could also provide a plethora of additional IoT information that could make the entire mining process far more efficient and profitable, which in turn makes for a stable and growing national economy.

And that’s just one tangible scenario. There are countless other industries within South Africa that can, and will, take advantage of 5G when it eventually rolls out. What sort of innovations and advantages can we expect? Only time will tell. It’s an exciting prospect to ponder nonetheless. Better automation, optimisations, and other organisational benefits are within reach. It’s now just a matter of waiting patiently for the future wireless infrastructure to be fully realised and implemented. Telviva can help your organisation to get access to the best high quality voice network solution.