The future’s on hold

The future of connectivity isn’t going to be built in a day—or the next couple of years, for that matter. The fifth generation of wireless network technology, or 5G, could deliver data as much as 100 times faster than current rates and provide more coverage, greater bandwidth and cheaper internet prices. 


Overall, better connectivity will help enable the future of next-gen tech, from autonomous vehicles to machine-to-machine communication. But widespread adoption is still years away. In the U.S. alone, a hodgepodge of service providers, financial investors and public-private partnerships will have to invest as much as US$150 billion in fiber infrastructure projects over the next five to seven years to make 5G possible, according to a 2017 Deloitte report. And universal 5G standards still have to be finalized. In the meantime, trial runs are launching across the world. China, Japan and the U.K. all announced plans in 2017 to launch pilot projects testing 5G technology in the coming year. Telecom Italia took it one step further: The organization has plans to make the tiny nation of San Marino the first European country to have a 5G mobile network by the end of 2018. “The services and applications that will result from the introduction of 5G can only bring benefit, in the immediate future, to the manufacturing world and the community,” said Andrea Zafferani, San Marino secretary of state at the Department of Industry, in a July news release.

Calls Waiting 

Widespread interest doesn’t make building out 5G infrastructure any easier, though. “It is a lot more complex than previous generations—given the emphasis on connecting internet of things ecosystems and products—and it will require a very different project deployment process,” says Umair Hussain, associate principal of Red Chalk Group, a management consulting firm in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Teams will first need to secure resources to lay the fiber and to mount cells—small transmission nodes that operate on shorter wavelengths than previous technology. While this creates greater data capacity, it also requires teams to deploy more cell sites because of the shorter wavelengths. “From a project management standpoint, this creates some big hurdles,” says Dan Littmann, principal, technology, media and telecommunications, Deloitte Consulting, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Teams will not only need to secure permits and right-of-way agreements to lay fiber, but they’ll also have to secure permission from municipalities and private owners to mount the cells on buildings, bus stops and other urban infrastructure. With much to sort out, “there are going to be a lot of pilot projects on the roadmap to 5G that will be key in defining repeatable activities that can scale quickly,” Mr. Littmann says. Despite its checkered history of rapidly implementing the latest connectivity standards nationwide, the U.S. has the greatest potential to lead the charge because it has the most funding from private carriers. “This will help it overcome some of the biggest challenges,” he says. These include getting the fiber and cells in place, along with winning municipalities’support to secure permits so that these projects can move forward. But 5G implementation is likely to gain momentum quickly, says Mr. Littmann. “Although organizations still have to prove they can consistently provide 5G speeds via pilot projects, once they roll out 5G in a large municipality, they will be able to replicate that project plan across the region.” —Sarah Fister Gale

Source: PM Network 12/2017 - 2017 PMO OF THE YEAR

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