5G: Are you
up to speed?

How network modernization
propels a connected world.

5G: Are you
up to speed?

How network modernization
propels a connected world.



No transformation without network modernization

No transformation without network modernization

In the digital era, can you do the things you’re used to without connection?

Driverless cars. Autonomous factories. Next-gen banking. Augmented-reality shopping.

Each passing day, more and more of our lives and work depends on the network. By 2024, 5G could serve 2 billion connections, reaching 45% of the global population.¹

Modern, open, cloud-enabled networks aren’t only where 5G and edge will live — it’s where communications service providers will supply the tools for digital transformation at every scale. The network is no longer just the conduit for the global economy. It’s the engine.

A world of connection

Examples of 5G applications

Open, modern-cloud network, infused with AI, 5G and edge, will propel industries of all kind.

Examples of 5G applications

Smart factories

Agricultural drones

Robotic surgery

Smart homes

AR/VR shopping

Assistive robots

Colaborative gaming

Smart cities

Autonomous car

Enhanced Mobile Broadband

Massive Machine-Type Communications

Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications

Successful carriers are already investing in open, multicloud environments.

These modern networks are how carriers will achieve the levels of access and adaptability to meet the needs of every industry while also anticipating problems before they occur.

These modern networks are how carriers will be at the center of a multitrillion-dollar digital market² now on the horizon.

Will your network be up to speed?

Cloud graphic


of telecom executives expect edge computing implementations to improve operational responsiveness in the next five years



Overcoming barriers to building 5G

Overcoming barriers to building 5G

While a nine-figure market for 5G and edge services is emerging, it will also take an infrastructure investment of at least USD 1 trillion globally³ to build the systems necessary to support it. 5G requires denser arrays of masts and smaller cells than 4G, as well as an intensive backhaul of fiberoptic cables connecting them, and the acquisition of a costly 5G spectrum.

Challenging as this work will be, some carriers are already building models to test the bounds of the connected economy.

AT&T is developing a 6-foot retail robot with Badger Technologies⁴ that relies on 5G and multiaccess edge computing to shuttle through dozens of grocery stores, tracking inventory and looking for spills. A Spanish partnership between carrier Telefónica and carmaker SEAT⁵ is now ensuring a connection for drivers to build a driverless future sooner. And Nextel is using tools from IBM® Watson® technology and The Weather Company®⁶ not only to predict outages across the complex landscape of Brazil, but prevent them from disrupting service.

Future infrastructure

Graphic of 5G mobile future investments

None to minimal



Leading 5G Carriers

Other Carriers

Level of investiments in 5G mobile technologies in the next 2-3 years.

Yet, given the barriers to both infrastructure and adoption, carriers have a way to go. Among telecom C-suite executives surveyed by the IBM Institute for Business Value in 2019, only 15% said their companies had invested in 5G networks over the past two to three years.⁷ Among those who are leaders in the field, 49% said they planned to invest in network modernization over the next five years.

An open, multicloud environment becomes crucial for carriers to scale, share, automate, repair, analyze and adapt their networks seamlessly to the growing needs and challenges of the digital world.

Choosing open, multicloud platforms can also offset some of the expense of building modern networks. Carriers can easily and reliably use application programming interfaces (APIs), created by third parties, to help contain costs, increase interoperability and enhance security. Open environments also offer immense opportunities for virtualization and automation to speed up workflows and decrease downtime to a dozen nines of latency.

Smart phone graphic


of 5G arly adopting consumers would opt for 5G when available if it resulted in a superior mobile video quality experience



Real-world stakes in the digital era

Real-world stakes in the digital era

Carriers who can...

  • master the complexities of the modern network...
  • self-heal irregular signals...
  • tap AI to manage slices for their myriad customers...
  • solve emergencies in real time...
  • in essence, carriers who can keep up...

they will be the ones who get ahead in the race to 5G and edge.

Edge opportunities


69% Reduce operating costs

59% Automate workflows

49% Lower data-processing latency

44% Increase reliability

40% Increase operational efficiency/productivity

29% Increase visibility and transparency

27% Secure data at the point of action

C-suite executives from across industries told IBM they have identified numerous areas where edge devices could enhance operations. (Source: IBM Institute for Business Value)

When an autonomous car is determining whether to engage the breaks, or a surgeon hundreds of miles away is evaluating an incision, there’s no room for error. The network has to be there. Assembly lines can falter; sensitive surveillance might crash; virtual reality could cause nausea. The network has to be there.

The network has to be able to handle a host of applications and operations travelling between on-premises, cloud and customer environments. It also has to deal with the growing web of edge devices that will help manage this traffic while also putting new demands on it.

It won’t just be information flowing through the network anymore—it will be entire businesses and lives on the line.

Network slicing

Common physical structure

Smart home slice
Higher bandwidth

Connected car slice
Low latency

Remote healthcare slice
Energy efficiency

Industrial IOT slice
Greater reliability

The greater bandwidth a modern 5G network will allow carriers to segment their signal by user needs.

¹ “Ericsson Mobility Report: 5G uptake even faster than expected.” Ericsson, June 11, 2019. https://www.ericsson.com/en/mobility-report/reports

² By 2035, the World Economic Forum predicts that 5G connectivity could create USD 3.6 trillion in annual productivity gains and 22.3 million jobs. “The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value across Industries and Society.” The World Economic Forum and PwC, January 2020. https://www.weforum.org/whitepapers/the-impact-of-5g-creating-new-value-across-industries-and-society

³ Freddy Boom. “Financing the Future of 5G.” Greensill, October 21, 2019. https://www.greensill.com/whitepapers/financing-the-future-of-5g/

⁴ “AT&T and Badger Technologies Bringing 5G-Enabled Autonomous Robots to Retail.” AT&T, July 30, 2019. https://about.att.com/story/2019/att_and_badger_technologies.html

⁵ “Telefónica and SEAT show 5G connected car use cases for safer driving in a city environment.” Telefónica, February 18, 2019. https://www.telefonica.com/en/web/press-office/-/telefonica-and-seat-show-5g-connected-car-use-cases-for-safer-driving-in-a-city-environment

⁶ “Nextel: Bringing AIOps to network operations.” IBM case study, IBM. 2019. https://www.ibm.com/case-studies/nextel-networkops-video

⁷ IBM Global C-suite Study, 20th Edition. “Building Your Trust Advantage: Leadership in the era of data and AI everywhere.” IBM Institute for Business Value. November 2019. https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/c-suite-study