5G is Likely to Accelerate Innovation in the 2020s


As a foundational piece of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G is likely to drive the human development that many anticipate. Viewing 5G through the lens of convergence provides an organizing principle that allows us to leverage insight across domains and derive foresight as a result. 5G, the next generation of cellular mobile communications technology, is the best example of convergence – as geopolitics is getting involved in emerging technology decisions and technology discussions are influencing geopolitics.

Convergence refers to a virtuous cycle where events in one domain spur action in another. The great inventions (electricity, telephone, and internal combustion engine) were clustered together at the end of the 19th century, forming a virtuous cycle that drove a period of astounding innovation. This innovation cycle continued well into the 20th century – a dynamic that could be emerging again. Yet, science and technology are simply two domains that converged during this period. The others were the economy, business, politics, and a broader set of societal issues.

5G will transform mobile into a General-Purpose Technology (GPT). When a communication innovation moves to a GPT, adoption leads to a tipping point that often disrupts industries and entire economies. GPTs share some common attributes, including pervasive use across many industries, continual improvement over time, and the ability to spawn new innovations. When a communication revolution combines with an energy and transport revolution, the result is a general purpose technology platform that forms the foundation for society. We’ve had two of these in human history, one after the first industrial revolution and the other after the second industrial revolution. We are on the verge of a third.

In this decade, 5G will force a convergence across society, economies, geopolitics, science, environment, technology and business. The outcome of this convergence is unpredictable – but the upside for our world is large. Most forecasts for 5G’s impact focus on 2035 as the analysis year. IHS Market Estimates the potential for $13.2 Trillion of  5G-Enabled global economic output spanning multiple industry sectors, representing about five percent of all global real output in 2035. That is nearly equivalent in current dollars to US consumer spending ($13.9 trillion) and the combined spending by consumers in China, Japan, Germany, UK, and France ($13.4 trillion) in 2018.

5G is a major building block that serves as an Innovation Accelerant. As a result, the pace phenomenon is likely to get even more challenging. Read more from the World Economic Forum about how 5G will change the world.

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