|Is this the right time for optical companies to invest?|
With the confluence of multiple major trends such as 5G, Big data, AI, IoT, AR/VR, Autonomous driving - all signs signal a positive investment cycle. Confidence is high for 2018 as the optical and semiconductor industry builds next-gen scalable platforms to intercept these trends.
The best place to see this industry optimism was at CES 2018 which attracted over 170,000 attendees and more than 3900 exhibitors onto a conference floor that spanned more than 2.75 million square feet – a record for the five decades of the show.
5G was a major topic of discussion at CES. It is tempting to think of 5G as just another step up in “feeds and speeds” in cellular evolution, but it is far more than that. Whereas 3G could be considered a step up in speed and bandwidth that enabled the Mobile Internet, and 4G a step up that enabled Mobile Content – 5G is a revolutionary step that not only increases the speed and bandwidth of mobile broadband, but also combines the power of Sensors & Actuators with high-speed Connectivity to take elements of mobility to different industries. 5G will interface with billions of IoT devices and kickstart new industries and businesses in Autonomous vehicles, Smart factories & Manufacturing, Smart cities, Digital healthcare, Augmented & Virtual reality and entertainment.
Ericsson CTO Erik Ekudden predicted that we would see 1 billion 5G subscriptions by 2020. He emphasized that mobile data is still growing at a rate higher than 50% per year, but it would be new industries such as Transportation, Remote Healthcare, and Manufacturing that would be transformed by 5G. According to Ericsson’s forecast, by 2026 5G enabled services will offer a $619 billion revenue opportunity for operators in ten specific industries, as illustrated in the graphic below:
In terms of deployment, Verizon CTO Hans Vestberg stated that with 5G you can instantiate different “slices” and Verizon’s initial focus is the slice that involves residential broadband using millimeter wave spectrum. The company has been conducting 5G trials and testbeds in eleven markets for the last one-and-a-half years and has determined that the performance of millimeter wave has been far better than imagined with rates reaching 1Gbps at a range up to 600m.
Verizon now plans to be the first to market with 5G by deploying residential broadband in three to five cities including Sacramento, California in 2018. This will be followed by a broader rollout in 2019 with offerings in broadband data, video and voice.
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said that the signs are encouraging in terms of 5G market momentum. He reminded attendees that in addition to Verizon, ATT has previously announced they would have mobile 5G running in a dozen U.S. cities by the end of 2018. Qualcomm will be coming out with 5G New Radio-based non-standalone chips that will show up in 5G smartphones in early 2019. And ZTE has stated that they would sell 5G-enabled handsets by early 2019.
Once 5G arrives in the market, carriers and customers will transition quickly to it according to discussion at CES. Each new generation of cellular technology was adopted faster than its predecessor - 3G was quicker to take off than 2G, 4G was quicker to take off than 3G, and the rollout of 5G will be faster still.
Yes, it is the right time for the optical companies to invest. 5G will necessitate several major changes to the network’s architecture, which will have implications for optical companies.