Strategy&PwC: Challenges for operators in the 5G era
How will telecom leaders build and profit from the transformative technology 5G will bring? This is the question posed by Strategy&PwC in a new report.
Sink or swim, Making strategic choices for the telecom industry of the future, takes an in-depth look at 5G and how this technology, which harnesses super-high speeds, extra-wide bandwidth, near-zero latency and low electric power, will transform how consumers and businesses use data.
“This will inevitably lead, as the internet and the smartphone did, to entirely new ways of looking at the world around us, and new telecom business models,” comment the authors of the report Wilson Chow Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Leader, Partner PwC China and Rolf Meakin Global Telecommunications Advisory Leader.
Channels of the future
By 2025, zetabytes of data will interlace billions and billions of connected objects. This will range from HDTVs. refrigerators and clothing to industrial machines along with smart homes and connected cars, all controlled through voice-controlled smartphones and other portable devices.
“As this entirely virtual world arises, interconnected with the analogue physical reality of everyday objects and actions, today’s telecom operators will face a challenge that shapes their business model and their enterprise,” outlines the report.
Challenges for operators in the 5G era
The promise of 5G is huge - but fulfilling that promise will be no easy task says Strategy&. “The technology offers the potential to manage the exponential growth in demand for data across telecom networks while presenting opportunities to supply even more data.”
According to the report this in turn enable three overarching business applications:
• Extreme mobile broadband, supporting consumer and business use cases such as virtual reality gaming and connected medical scanners
• Critical machine-to-machine communication, enabling reliable and low-latency applications such as automated factories and smart mobility
• Massive machine-type communication, supporting systems demanding high scalability and low power, such as smart cities and drone-based logistics
“The capital investment needed to fulfil 5G’s promise is huge. Low-latency applications will also require edge-computing infrastructure. Moreover, operators will need to develop or buy the software and device management capabilities needed to run 5G networks,” says the report.
According to the report if operators are going to make the investment pay off, they must devise a strategy that will give them the right to win in their markets. Many operators have found it hard to resist the temptation to diversify into other industries such as French telecom company Orange. Although this move was a success other results have been mixed.
“Telecom leaders considering this strategy should consider if they have the capabilities needed to compete in the industry they’re looking to enter and if the targeted industry is ripe for disruption.”
The other side of the coin involves telecom companies that already possess strong infrastructure and networking capabilities and see a way forward in leveraging those capabilities.
“By creating and maintaining industry-leading networking infrastructure; reducing costs to a minimum; and managing customer, partner, and regulatory relations skilfully, these operators can provide investors with a reliable long-term dividend stream.
“The key to success as an infrastructure player lies in developing a network that’s fast and flexible enough to be different things to different kinds of customers.”
The capable partner
A partnership approach may be the most promising option, says Strategy&, allowing both the telecom operator and its business partners to profit from the sale of 5G connectivity. If operators are to go this route, they will have to develop and perfect their partnering capabilities.
The 5G technology will be able to connect as many as 1 million end points per kilometre. “That’s a million potential points of attack for malicious hackers and cybercriminals. Other possible victims are the hugely complex networks, cloud structures, data centres and applications that tie everything together.
“Securing all this will be difficult, to put it mildly. One solution will be to take what we call a zero-trust approach, which involves identifying, profiling, and assessing the potential security risks inherent in every device connected to the network, and then allowing access only to the services each device needs to perform its function,” comments the report.
5G networking is creating endless possibilities for telecom operators.
“If their organisations are to grow and prosper in this world, telecom leaders must be imaginative, even daring, in considering their strategic options.”
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.