The latest Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index (VNI) 2017–2022 update forecasts that in the next four years we will see an emergence of 5G from field trials and limited deployment to a broader and more compelling cellular network technology of the future.

We have seen a relatively consistent cycle of mobile technology evolution in terms of a new generation of cellular network innovation being launched every decade. As the chart below shows, ever since the introduction of 1G in the late 1970’s, there’s been a fairly regular cadence to enhancements in cellular capabilities for last four decades.

Cellular Technology Evolution

With the introduction of each new generation, not only has the network performance improved, but also new and more advanced applications and devices have become available.  Likewise, with 5G, we expect both the network enhancements in terms of bandwidth (1+ Gbps) and ultra-low latency as well as features such as improved power efficiency, cost optimization, massive IoT density and dynamic resource allocation to enable a wide spectrum of wireless applications and IoT connections.

GSMA, a global association of mobile network operators, categorization of 5G IoT capabilities effectively captures the range of low-end to high-end use cases that can all be supported concurrently and in a flexible manner on this new mobile platform.   5G will also provide unique value beyond connectivity. 5G can accommodate a growing number of IoT connections such as meters and sensors, for example, by allowing many unconnected, energy consuming devices to be integrated into a smart grid through low-cost connections 5G can better forecast energy needs and do the required load balancing for energy cost optimization.

5G IoT Applications by Category

Enhanced mobile broadband for seamless end-user experience involving tactile Internet applications such as immersive video and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) would have very limited, if any, reach without 5G.  It is also a key enabler of critical communications such as autonomous vehicles and factory automation requiring highly reliant bandwidth and ultra-low latencies.

 All of the extensive applications and the massive number of connected devices and IoT are likely to generate a vast amount of data (for example, an autonomous car can generate 4 TB of data per day). When support for this type of high-volume traffic application is combined with real-time data analytics, smart edge networking, and other advanced computing solutions, the true value of 5G networks can be unlocked and new mobile possibilities can be realized for consumers and businesses.

Not all of the capabilities of 5G will be available on day #1 of large commercial deployments, it is going to be an evolution with more capabilities added and enhanced with each roll-out.  Ultimately, the impact of what 5G will be able to deliver depends on a variety of factors such as spectrum allocation, high vs. low-frequency bands of spectrum, in addition to monetization opportunities and regulatory and standards developments.  One thing is clear — the demand for mobile networking, resources and content is on the rise:

  • The annual run rate for mobile data traffic will approach a zettabyte by 2022 (930 exabytes), nearly 113X more than mobile traffic generated in 2012.
  • By 2022, mobile users will represent 71 percent of the global population up from 66 percent in 2017.
  • Mobile connected devices and connections are growing faster than the global mobile population – by 2022, each mobile user will have nearly 1.5 mobile device/ connection on an average, up from 1.1 devices/ connection in 2017.
  • Mobile data traffic is growing faster than either the mobile users or the mobile devices and connections – by 2022, a mobile user will generate more than 13 GB of monthly mobile data traffic on an average up from 2 GB per month in 2017.

What is additionally clear is that 5G evolution is necessary to meet and sustain this phenomenal mobile growth.  You can learn more about Cisco’s perspectives and solutions for 5G here.

What do you think about the potential of 5G? We’re interested in your perspectives and invite you to share your comments below. To read more on our projections for 5G, IoT and other mobile trends, please visit our public web site.


Other Cisco Mobile VNI Forecast Resources


Shruti Jain

Leader, Project & Program Management

X-Architecture Marketing, Enterprise Networking & Cloud