Monetizing the 5G Killer Feature: Industrial Automation @scale

We are halfway into the 5G cycle and went past the 1 billion subscriber milestone in four years, something that took 4G almost a decade to reach. Beyond the impressive subscriber numbers observed in key markets such as the US, China, India, and Japan, the consumer market growth has not lived up to its promise. However, a transformative undercurrent is reshaping the landscape. Beneath the surface, the real essence of 5G lies in its ability to drive automation @scale, particularly in industrial workflows.

Traditionally, the industry’s revenue growth formula relied on expanding consumer bases. Each generation, from 1G to 4G, introduced new capabilities like voice, texting, and data, leading to a predictable cycle of revenue growth, plateau, and decline. With 5G, the narrative shifts toward a new strategy centered on automation and industrial development—a concept encapsulated in the 4th Wave thesis.[1] While connectivity has historically impacted GDP, social engagement, and accessibility, 5G’s unique potential lies in delivering substantial value across sectors such as health, infrastructure, industrialization, and innovation.

The biggest opportunity in front of the industry is Industrial Automation @scale and 5G has an important role to play. Together with other synchronous s-curve technologies, 5G can accelerate the workflow automation process. 5G must not be considered in isolation but as an important tool aiding in the industrial roadmap worldwide. When players have used 5G as the enabling tool for automation along with AI, Edge, Robotics, etc., they have generally succeeded in integrating 5G into the fabric of industrial workflow. However, when the sales team went into the enterprise selling 5G, it has received cold shoulder or less than desirable outcomes.

We estimate that 5G and related technologies could generate significant economic value by 2030, with proactive mobile operators poised to capture 25% to 30% annually. The realization of this value is not theoretical; promising results are already evident, with industries and communication service providers expected to achieve significant economic milestones by 2024.

This paper emphasizes the imperative for mobile operators to embrace an industrial 5G strategy, underpinned by advanced 5G networks, to achieve faster revenue growth compared to their counterparts. As the industry approaches the 5G-Advanced deployments, the focus needs to shift toward Industrial 5G projects. Operators aligning their growth strategy with industrial development are not only better positioned for the decade ahead but are also reaping early rewards.

Discussing the 5G enterprise landscape, this paper explores use cases, business and ROI impacts, industry segments driving demand, and the evidence supporting an industrial-led strategy. It underscores the necessity for organizational preparedness to leverage the expanding capabilities of 5G Advanced and advocates increased investments in industrial development.

The paper draws on available evidence, data, and insights to formulate a coherent strategy for the second half of the 5G cycle and beyond. In this critical juncture of evolution, CSPs have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in enterprise transformation. Success requires learning new skills, abandoning old habits, and forging new alliances—a strategic framework outlined in this paper to navigate the complexities of the 5G cycle.