October 24, 2022 | Updated: May 11, 2023
For the past several years, the rise of 5G networking technology has pervaded technology news. In 2023, the telecommunications industry isn’t slowing down.
Half of respondents (50%) to a new survey, “The Impact of Technology in 2023 and Beyond: an IEEE Global Study,” chose 5G as one of the top five most important technologies in 2022, with the biggest impacts in the next year on remote learning and education, telemedicine and entertainment.
“5G technology will have the greatest positive impact on society in 2023 because it will enable remote collaboration, remote operations, remote management and remote services,” said Bala Prasad Peddigari, IEEE Senior Member. “This will eliminate the physical presence and help to drive cost optimization and improve speed of communication.”
In 2023 telecommunications and connectivity could undergo even more changes, experts say.
Changes to Consumer Connectivity
IEEE Senior Member David Witkowski sees two major trends coming to the consumer smartphone market. The first is the rise of Hotspot 2.0, which allows Wi-Fi networks to become extensions of the cellular network without user action. Devices provisioned by a wireless carrier to use Hotspot 2.0 will automatically connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots – in places like hotels, retail establishments or airports. The service provides a better user experience – there’s no need to ask for the Wi-Fi password – while at the same time expanding a wireless carrier’s network without the need to deploy more equipment.
“The lines between cellular and Wi-Fi will continue to blur as devices make use of available connectivity without the need for user intervention,” Witkowski said.
The rise of eSIM (embedded-SIM), may also lead to changes for consumers. SIM cards store the identification information on a mobile device. Typically, a physical SIM card was given to you by your wireless carrier, and that made it difficult to switch plans if you were traveling and one carrier had better service in an area than another. But eSIM cards are embedded into the mobile device itself, which allows a smartphone to carry multiple identities and to switch between carriers.
Witkowski thinks that eSIM may not only make it easier to switch carriers, but it could shift how people pay for their smartphones.
“It’s likely that, in the near future, you will be able to change carriers as needed to suit your location and need,” Witkowski said. “Your monthly bill for wireless connectivity will be paid to your phone vendor and not a wireless carrier — your phone vendor will shift your device to the best available carrier on the fly, and carriers will bid for their business in real-time auctions as your devices request more or less connectivity.”
Driving a Space Race
The demand for ubiquitous connectivity is also driving a race to space, as more companies launch satellites to provide internet to remote areas.
Currently, connecting Earth-based consumer handsets to space isn’t feasible because the antenna in your smartphone isn’t strong enough. To make the connection, telecom companies largely rely on base stations, the cost of which is coming down. But even with those limitations, space satellites are helping to expand connectivity to rural and underserved areas.
“Networking technologies have been undergoing continual improvements in the past 40 years, and they’ve enabled radical changes across all aspects of society, from how we work, how we build communities, cities, countries, how we play and how we interact with one another, whether it be across the globe or across the room,” said Paul Nikolich, IEEE Life Fellow. “Space satellites will enable significant quality of life improvements to residents of remote areas, as connectivity has done everywhere else.”
Expect to see a jump in the number of space satellites in 2023, and a push to solve some of the tricky problems that come with connecting a handset to a space satellite.
The Rise of 6G
Next-generation communications networks take years of planning. At the same time the rollout of 5G is underway, the groundwork is being laid for 6G technologies.
The IEEE survey found that 88% of respondents agree that 6G will primarily be an evolving work in progress in 2023 but will be standardized within the next five years. During that time, expect to see new use cases and a broader discussion on the generation’s performance parameters.
“The process of defining 6G is underway, and there are research efforts for 6G technologies, but I think the majority of development is still pending,” Witkowski said. “We need to realize that each cellular generation partly exists to fix the limitations of the previous generation. In order to understand those limitations, we need to push the 5G network to its limits, but many 5G networks don’t yet have 5G cores. We don’t truly understand the limitations of 5G yet.”
“The Impact of Technology in 2023 and Beyond: an IEEE Global Study” surveyed 350 CIOs, CTOs, IT directors and other technology leaders in the U.S., China, U.K., India and Brazil at organizations with more than 1,000 employees across multiple industry sectors including banking and financial services, consumer goods, education, electronics, engineering, energy, government, healthcare, insurance, retail, technology and telecommunications.
Learn more: The technologists working on next generation communications aren’t just focused on how the technology will work. They’re discussing how to make it sustainable and energy-efficient as well. Check out this video on how to make sure 6G technology can deploy new and innovative ways to reduce power consumption and transition to renewable energy sources to prevent potentially drastic increases in emissions and power consumption.