The race to deploy 5G wireless network technology in cities worldwide continues. The latest figures from network test, monitoring and assurance firm Viavi reveal that, as of January this year, commercial 5G networks had been deployed in 378 cities across 34 countries.
Topping the chart is South Korea with 85 cities, followed by China with 57, the USA at 50 and the UK with 31 cities. In terms of regional coverage, EMEA leads the way with 168 cities, Asia is second with 156 cities – and 54 cities are covered by 5G across the Americas.
It makes an interesting story – most of us like reading "top-10" lists and seeing how different countries and cities compare. But is it helpful? Should we really care about the race to adopt 5G first? Surely what's more important is to do it right – to be future-proof end to end.
Adding 5G capabilities fast is one thing – but adding the right sensors and devices, along with more granular infrastructure, will underpin bigger societal changes. If cities and nations do it right – via telcos or other infrastructure suppliers – then 5G will generate data, in both space and time, that can unlock positive change and enable new opportunities for good.
With a 5G connection, your future autonomous car will know your expected arrival time at work, taking the optimal route based on traffic data communicated from other cars and the road network – saving you time and reducing congestion. In healthcare, 5G will enable always-on, secure device connectivity for patients, carers and healthcare providers. The combination of timely medical-grade connectivity and data integration across the care continuum will lead to radically transformed, predictive care.
IBM warned enterprise organisations last year that location awareness and geospatial context will be integral to 5G and Internet of Things projects – regardless of application. It said digitised indoor maps of large complex facilities provide the necessary location information to give sensor data meaning. For example, indoor maps are key to enabling hospitals to track high-value assets like insulin pumps and their status throughout their buildings.
Of course, this data-driven approach presents some interesting challenges. All this new data will only prove valuable if it can be analysed – but existing database technology was not designed for this type and volume of data, and typically requires expensive enterprise hardware.
This is where our state-of-the-art spatial big data platform comes into its own. It was designed with these future needs of scale and performance in mind. Hosted on affordable commodity hardware, it enables organisations to explore and gain insights from massive geospatial data sets at previously unattainable speeds. Now that really is a race worth winning.