Keen to capture this growing demand, operators are deploying 5G and other next-generation technologies to provide sufficient data capacity for cloud services, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies.
“5G infrastructure will be the lynchpin for many greenfield services,” says Chris Holt, Macquarie Capital Managing Director in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications group.
New applications like AI, autonomous cars, distributed big data processing and cloud computing will significantly increase the traffic on mobile networks.
“They will also bring incredible benefits to the community – and telecommunications companies will be a key part of the new services delivery.”
In the US, the four major operators Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have started transitioning to 5G networks, said to be over 10 times faster than 4G.
Mobile technology company Qualcomm expects more than two dozen operators to accelerate 5G deployments in 2019, while the latest Ericsson Mobility Report estimates 5G will cover more than 40 per cent of the world’s population by 2024.
Telecommunications operators are also investing heavily in AI technology to enhance their communications infrastructure and customer support operations, according to artificial intelligence magazine Becoming Human.
The global artificial intelligence market is expected to grow from $US126 billion in 2015 to more than $US3 trillion by the end of 2024, according to a study by Transparency Market Research.
IoT Analytics expects similarly strong growth in the global IoT market, which is forecast to increase from $US151 billion in 2018 to $US1.5 trillion in 2025, with the number of IoT devices expected to triple to 21 billion over that time.
Holt says one challenge for operators is that consumers are more selective about what they will pay for their service, forcing operators to upgrade their infrastructure in a lower spending environment.
“There's an imbalance between data demand and the ability for mobile operators to charge their customers for that increased data usage,” he says.
“Speed and scale requirements are increasing exponentially while consumers are reducing their spending.”
But he says this is creating opportunities for innovation in the sector and accelerating the transition to next-generation technologies that can work more efficiently, reduce operating costs and better support a more connected world.
Companies are also finding ways to free up expensive wireless spectrum, which enables mobile data transmission, and deploy it in a more efficient manner.
Newer technologies such as Network Function Virtualization use software to supply network services that were previously run through expensive, proprietary, hardware-based solutions.
As the shift toward these next-generation technologies accelerates, Holt says the industry will become more creative in what it can offer enterprises and consumers.