Harnessing the power of the AI/5G inflection point

Harnessing the power of the AI/5G inflection point

Many adults today remember a time before smartphones were the hub of daily life. However, millions of young people worldwide do not. Today, we’re at a similar inflection point, only this time it’s the convergence of two technologies: 5G and AI.

Enabling AI-powered solutions to cost-effectively perform real-time tasks everywhere will fundamentally change how we live, work, and play in ways that were futuristic dreams not long ago. This is being made possible by higher-performance, lower-latency 5G and private 5G (P5G) networks, as AI applications are vastly more compute- and network-intensive than anything humanity has ever seen before. It’s also made possible by high-capacity edge solutions, which 5G and P5G play an important role in enabling. Additionally, CSPs that are both fixed and mobile will need to bring data together at the edge.From computer vision to multi-source analytics applications, the AI market is projected to reach nearly US$306 billion worldwide this year and continue its double-digit annual growth of nearly 16% (CAGR) to become about US$739 billion by 20301. In short, AI will continue driving innovation for the foreseeable future.

Industries at the forefront

Although every type of business will gain from the convergence of AI and 5G, it’s expected that several key industries will be among the first to realize the benefits. This is because the relevant AI applications have been in development and testing for some time, in anticipation of 5G and P5G networks becoming ubiquitous. Consider the following examples.

Healthcare. AI and 5G will profoundly improve remote healthcare delivery. Computer vision will enable conducting remote surgeries with precision. Real-time patient monitoring, for acute and chronic conditions, will enable AI to rapidly detect potential issues and provide mitigation strategies to keep lives on track. Personalized treatment will become a reality, as AI can analyze vast amounts of historical, genetic, population, and other medical data, as well as metrics continuously generated by a patient, to deliver and revise specific treatments based on evolving circumstances.

Manufacturing. Beyond the well-discussed ability to automate production, optimize supply chains, and increase worker safety, AI in the form of computer vision and associated technologies will transform another aspect of manufacturing: defect reduction. It’s estimated that as much as 20% of every dollar currently used in manufacturing is wasted, largely due to small defects that add up during R&D and production phases. AI’s assistance in monitoring and adjusting manufacturing practices will significantly reduce defects, resulting in higher profitability for industrial businesses, better products for users, and less waste for the planet.

Municipalities. For smart city infrastructure, AI is a leapfrog enabler. The benefits will include powering applications that predictively re-route traffic or balance energy delivery needs, both of which will contribute to environmental benefits as well as improve city life. Drone surveillance and policing will increase public safety and speed rendering the right aid when incidents occur. During disaster situations, autonomous transportation systems will improve response and save lives. AI will also make autonomous personal and fleet vehicles safer by enabling a city’s infrastructure to detect anomalies and rapidly intervene, regardless of a vehicle’s make or model.

Sports and Entertainment. Whether it’s a soccer game or a streaming drama series, the combination of AI and ubiquitous connectivity enables spectators and viewers to transition from observing the action to being immersed within it. AI will enable individuals to select their engagement preferences and algorithms will serve up the requested content appropriate to the available device. For live sports, every seat will become the best seat in the house. For entertainment, it means that creators can engineer story evolutions based on individual interests or in response to aggregate trends.

Preparing networks for next-gen AI applications

Making transformative AI advances possible requires telecom operators and enterprises to prepare their 5G and P5G networks for the flood of data and significantly accelerated performance expectations necessary for supporting complex real-time applications.

The most successful companies will team up with networking vendors offering integrated full-stack solutions. Look for technology portfolios that include robust support for advanced AI technologies, like Large Language Models (LLMs), and deep relationships with leading GPU vendors for powering graphics-intensive applications like computer vision.

There are also key nuances for telco operators and enterprises to ensure their 5G and P5G networks are optimized for the AI age:Telco operators. Due to the rapid introduction of AI-driven applications, it’s estimated that 5G network traffic will triple by 20282.

This includes significant demand from remote and rural areas that traditionally had limited access to data networks, as the convergence of AI and 5G is expected to enable their businesses and communities to thrive.

As many AI use cases will require a dedicated network and computing power to effectively inference data closest to the end user or device, taking massive amounts of data back to the cloud is uneconomical and introduces unacceptable latency. Telco operators, with their distributed data center estates, are well positioned to offer a more competitive solution compared to hyperscale cloud providers.

To roll out optimized 5G solutions faster, leading telecom operators are already modernizing their networks by deploying open radio access networks (Open RAN) and other open solutions that enable transitioning to AI-native infrastructure that is optimized for AI inferencing at the edge. This includes adopting centralized management solutions, such as AIOps for network orchestration and telco core automation software that leverages AI to enhance operational efficiency and responsiveness.

Enterprises. In addition to AI applications that run on telco-operated 5G networks, it’s anticipated that many business cases will also rely on internal enterprise networks that combine P5G and Wi-Fi to support AI data and performance requirements. Interest in enterprise P5G networks for enabling AI and other applications is already strong. By 2023, P5G networks were expected to balloon to 60,000 worldwide, a 1,400 percent increase from the 4,000 in 2022. Similarly, spending will grow to USD$9 billion, representing a meteoric compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48%3.

Leading enterprise networking providers are developing streamlined and integrated P5G and Wi-Fi infrastructure that enables IT staff and managed services providers to use a single interface for unified provisioning, deployment, management, and security This includes applying policies uniformly across the combined P5G and Wi-Fi networks whether in the cloud, on-prem, or hybrid, enabling IT teams to maximize the resources that transformative AI applications require to deliver on their promise.

Opportunities await

With AI driving rapid changes in the technology landscape, telco operators and enterprises will benefit from the many new opportunities already in the pipeline and yet to be developed. Having the right 5G and P5G networking solutions in place will enable meeting complex connectivity needs efficiently, effectively, and securely. It’s an active and exciting time for innovation, which will only accelerate in the years to come. 

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[1] Artificial Intelligence – Worldwide, Statista, August 2023

[2] 5G Statistics & Facts, Statista, January 26, 2024

[3]Enterprises will spend USD9 billion on private networks by 2028 but the market will not have reached its potential, Analysys Mason, January 22, 2024

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