CES: AT&T and Qualcomm Executives Discuss 5G Use Cases

Deloitte Consulting principal Dan Littman, AT&T Business chief executive Anne Chow and Qualcomm Technologies senior vice president of engineering Alejandro Holcman discussed current and future 5G use cases and obstacles to deployment during a CES 2021 session. Chow noted her group is seeing “the smart factory of the future,” especially due to sensitivities over human contact and proximity during COVID-19. “Education is similar,” she said. “We’re still heavily virtual and we won’t go [all the way] back to the way it was.”

Chow continued that, “the idea of immersive experiences such as holographic interviews conducted with 5G technology … is extremely powerful.” Healthcare is another “powerful experience” with 5G. “You can envision within hospitals how mass connectivity and real-time transmission of data can improve efficacy and speed of care,” she said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Holcman described hiring professional car drivers to command RC (remote control) cars a mile away, driving 50 mph through obstacles completely via the car’s cameras. “With this kind of low latency abilities, you can apply it to any kind of machinery you want to control remotely,” he said. “Virtual presence applies to sports, education, entertainment. There’s no week that goes by where we don’t talk to different industries wanting to do different things in 5G.”

With regard to distribution, Chow said that AT&T is “less fixated on the modality of what environment will enable the use case.” “The network configuration will be driven by what clients want to do,” she said. But she did reveal that the company has been “working with clients on private networks with edge computing for the last two years.”

“You can envision a maintenance facility that repairs airplanes or trucks, in an environment that enables numerous devices and offers security and AR for training,” she said. “You can start thinking about smart cities and autonomous vehicles.”

Fast communication and powerful compute ability, said Holcman, combine to allow new capabilities such as edge computing. He described an example of public safety at the airport, with hundreds of thousands of people. “The amount of video feeds you would need to compute facial recognition would be difficult to do in the network,” he said. “You need mobile edge processing on the camera itself.”

That can also power such use cases as real-time translation on the smartphone for example. “If you can’t do it on the device you can have a 5G link to do AI on the core,” he said. “Mobile edge compute will happen at the network and on the device.” He also noted that, with 5G, everyone is a broadcaster with the camera’s 4K video. “You need 5G to take full advantage of the device.”

Littman asked what obstacles might be holding back 5G’s implementation. Chow pointed out that the biggest misconception is that 5G is “just another G.” “They think more speed, another fancy device, so what?” she said. “But 5G is a really critical enabler in terms of networking coupled with device innovation coupled with demographic shifts in the workforce and among consumers. It can and will enable next-generation innovation that will be infused into every facet of our lives.”

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