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CES 2020: 5G to be driven by enterprise use

At the outset of a new decade, the Consumer Technology Association expects enterprise to lead 5G expansion, even as 5G handsets still have a ways to go with consumers.

"5G will be the first wireless generation that will be led by enterprise applications," said Steve Koenig, vice president of research for the trade group, during an opening presentation at CES 2020, the CTA's annual technology and media trade show. Koenig pointed to a variety of industries that would build out the 5G ecosystem, including smart cities, factories, agriculture and media.

Looking specifically at agriculture, industrialized automated farming equipment — such as tractors and harvesters — will become standard in just a few years, Koenig said. Farther along, drones will survey fields, identify underserved areas and deploy automated robots to water or fertilize those parts of the field. Much of this technology will be connected through 5G networks, and the predictability of the new agricultural ecosystem will give farmers more insight into the yield and pricing of their product, leading to a more efficient agricultural business and helping to reduce food shortages, Koenig said.

Already, industries and consumers use "massive IoT," or internet of things, applications with many connected endpoints that deliver small amounts of data, like a local electrical grid delivering usage statistics from each home. The low latency, high reliability and availability of 5G will help enable this kind of "critical IoT," where fewer endpoints deliver large amounts of data, Koenig said.

He also said that the acronym "IoT" is slowly shifting meaning, from "internet of things" to "intelligence of things," with the CES expo now being dominated not as much by the gadgetry consumers use, but by the intelligence and automation of those gadgets.

While enterprises from agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and the logistics may lead the rollout of 5G applications, the consumer will not be far behind, said Lesley Rohrbaugh, CTA director of research. Several companies, including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc., are expected to unveil 5G smartphones during the CES event, and CTA expects the U.S. 5G handset market to leap to 20.2 million in 2020, an increase of 12 times over 2019's initial introduction. Rohrbaugh said the inflection point will occur in 2022, when 5G handsets in the U.S. are expected to overtake 4G handsets by almost two-thirds, with 106.3 million units sold.

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Lesley Rohrbaugh, CTA director of research, at CES
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence