Fans and athletes in Hyundai Nexo shuttle buses at this year’s Winter Olympics enjoyed a unique view—a first. The windows on the shuttles doubled as windows to PyeongChang and screens to watch live coverage of the Games. It was the latest example of what could be in a 5G-driven world. And by the way, these were self-driving shuttles with artificial intelligence behind the wheel1.
Yes, these Games, as many others, left us with more to talk about than just the athletic competition. Their conclusion mark only the beginning for an array of emerging technologies on the brink of changing how we interact with the world. They put the spotlight not only on the world’s best athletes, but on its best inventions. Advancing digital technologies like virtual reality, smart devices and wearables, artificial intelligence, cloud, drones and autonomous vehicles each played a role in Olympic village, in event operations, in the competition itself, and in the remote fan experience.
5G is one of those game-changing technologies. The next generation of wireless, 5G has long been hyped as the foundation for a truly mobile and connected world, as it will enable data to move back and forth at super-fast speeds and in huge capacities, enabling revolutionary innovations ranging from autonomous vehicles to smart cities to remote-performed surgery.
The wireless industry has already taken some initial steps to make 5G real. A first official 5G standard was created at the end of 2017, and numerous companies are preparing to launch 5G networks soon2. But it was at this year’s Olympics that Intel first commercialized it, collaborating with South Korean communications service provider KT Corporation to showcase the capabilities of a 5G network3.
What was it like? For the bits of data transmitting through a network that’s nearly 100 times faster than 4G, it was probably similar to the experience of a short-track speed skater rounding a curve on the inside lane. But you and I were the big winners. 5G is a critical enabler of any technology that requires the real-time exchange of data: driverless cars, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, drones and more. In PyeongChang, 5G made a range of exciting innovations come to life. From our own living rooms, we could experience the Games from the athlete’s perspective through bobsled-mounted cameras that streamed live video of the icy track in front of them—in crisp quality with virtually no delay. Fans in PyeongChang could get from ice rinks to ski slopes in autonomous buses using 5G for navigation. Athletes could send videos to the other side of the world nearly instantly, from the top of a half-pipe or a podium.
This deployment of 5G at the Games was the first of its kind, but it won’t be the last. At the 2018 Mobile World Congress, Intel announced a planned global rollout of 5G commercial standards and networks in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, enabling 8k real-time video streams of competitions and better venue operations security through enhanced facial recognition and connected vehicle communications4. IHS Markit predicts 1 billion global 5G subscriptions by 2023 and Ericsson predicts the 5G market will grow to $1.23 trillion by 20265.
Beyond sports, 5G will help usher in a new era of connectivity and create an altogether smarter society—and smarter businesses, too. Across industries, companies will benefit from more data and faster flows of information, leading to new insights and driving better decision-making. There will be opportunities to connect with customers on a new level, to deploy high-tech products we could once only dream about, and to unlock countless new sources of value.
There are still some technical hurdles to overcome before 5G can reach its potential, including infrastructure and coverage gaps and service and reliability issues. But in the race to win the 5G future, now is the time for business leaders to take the first step. That means answering the key business questions that will help drive smart strategic decisions and put you in position to succeed:
For more KPMG insights on the intersection of leading-edge technologies and global sports, I encourage you to read the other articles in our series, "How technology and sports change the world.”
1 5G Is Here: Super Speed Makes Global Debut at Olympic Games (Bloomberg: Quint, February 20, 2018)
2 What Is 5G? (PCMag.com, Feb. 1, 2018)
3 Intel to Power the 5G Network Future at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang (newsroom.intel.com, Oct. 30, 2017)
4 Intel 5G Technology at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to Play a Transformative Role from Sports to Transportation (newsroom/intel.com, February 25, 2018)
5 Ericsson at MWC 2017: Pioneering 5G and Business Transformation (Ericsson.com, February 27, 2017)