IBM: 2020 is a tipping point for 5G

Steve Canepa, general manager of IBM's Global Media and Entertainment Industry, said that 2020 will be the year that 5G reaches an inflection point and will roll out at scale.

IBM: 2020 is a tipping point for 5G

TechRepublic's Teena Maddox talked to Steve Canepa, general manager, IBM's Global Media and Entertainment Industry, at CES 2020 about the benefits of 5G to the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, manufacturing, and more. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. 

Steve Canepa: 5G, as we've all seen, is starting to show up in all kinds of different ways with the telecommunications providers now having the spectrum that they're starting to deploy. We're seeing different providers have their evolution to 5G offerings in the marketplace. We're going to see it show up in fixed locations, manufacturing floors, stadiums, facilities, all of that is going to start rolling out at scale in 2020, so it's an exciting time. And for us, 5G is really an inflection point, I think, because it brings three core advantages to businesses that are trying to create new value.

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One is the low latency that allows you to do things extremely quickly. Two, the big bandwidth that allows us to put things like video processing and AI close to where things are occurring. And three, this notion of network slicing, dedicating the network to specific use cases. Those three things provide a lot of flexibility for businesses to create new value.

Teena Maddox: Makes sense. And as far as for the enterprise, what else for 2020 with having devices that are ready, things like that, how will that help them?

Steve Canepa: There are two very important things that are happening at the same time that 5G is expanding. The first is that telcos [telecommunications companies] themselves are transforming their networks into cloud platforms. In fact, they're secure hybrid multi-cloud platforms, and we're very focused in working with the telcos all over the globe to help them implement an open platform that'll allow them to draw an ecosystem that will create value on top of that 5G capability.

The second phenomenon that's happening now at scale is edge computing. And what edge computing means is we're moving compute and storage capabilities and processing closer to where things occur so that we can have AI, and we can have video processing in proximity to where things are occurring. I think of it as creating a platform for the future. And if you look at most analysts' reports, they say over the next three to five years, we'll start to move towards $1 trillion of new value being created by the ability to implement these new applications, in all kinds of industries.

Teena Maddox: Do you think the enterprise, when you hone down to an individual business, do you think if they don't get on the 5G bandwagon that they can stay relevant?

Steve Canepa: The market is changing at an ever-increasing rate, and the thing that we work with clients in all industries on is about how do they make their business more agile so that they can provide better experiences to their customers, whether that's B2B or B2C? In fact, you're hearing the dialogue change here from just products to products and services to the experiences they deliver. And so I believe the ability to take advantage of 5G as the way you create value for your customers is going to become very important over time. The thing that we're focused on, though, is making it easy to have those capabilities integrated into your business so that your business can take advantage of those services.

Let's think about a manufacturing shop floor as an example. You want your business to run well. You want it to be safe for your employees. Video on the shop floor, watching safe zones to make sure that everyone stays where they're supposed to be and analyzing that in real time at the edge, is just one example of how we can enhance the manufacturing process. You tie that to sensors in manufacturing and make sure your throughput and supply chain is working as efficiently as possible, and you improve the effectiveness of the business. It's touching all different types of businesses as we go forward.

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