Albert Einstein once said, “creativity is intelligence having fun”. As 5th generation (5G) wireless networks come online they promise to change how we communicate, do business, and fill our lives with smart everything. Great. Marketing hype aside, there’s a bigger transformation at play that I believe has the potential to tap into developer creativity: perhaps in new ways. Previous generations of wireless standards have been pieced together with proprietary network and radio appliances. In a 5G world, network architectures are moving to software-defined everything, general purpose server infrastructure, and open standards (check out the open source collaboration underway at Linux Foundation Networking). This is cloud.
According to Statista there are 3 billion active smartphone users worldwide which equates to 39% of our population (7.7 billion). Research published by Global X points to carriers spending over $1 trillion on CAPEX to build out the 4G LTE backbone connecting us today. Their investment enabled developers to create OTT experiences, services, and applications that we all enjoy. 2008 was an inflection point translating into significant growth for many mobile leading platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (aka FAANG). Today their combined market capitalization has reached $3.8 trillion. In comparison, the combined market cap of the big four U.S. wireless carriers is a fraction of that at $611 billion. And globally, the world’s telecom carriers account to less than 1/3 of this at $1 trillion. My point is simple. Connectivity is valuable and applications closer to users is becoming increasingly more important as well. Some call it edge computing, I see it as future opportunity.
The value of application innovation is clear. Now, imagine the possibilities of building applications that are built smarter, closer to devices, and take full advantage of super quick latency. The next inflection point will be enabled by developers who have access to 5G networks. The question is, how do we/they start?
There is no doubt that 5G represents an opportunity for all of us — carriers, developers, enterprises and consumers. However, if we are going to realize the true promise of 5G, developers must lead the way and partner with carriers on standards and critical platform development. Historically, this hasn’t been the case. Experimentation and a focus on problem solving will lead us to new use cases ultimately informing important requirements and leading to new solutions.
5G is not just about the network. It is the next great software revolution. Developers that embrace the new paradigm will help define the next-generation connectivity platform. This platform will in turn drive new industries, new solutions and new experiences. There’ s a wealth of opportunity for growth and the promise of a world not only connected, but smarter.