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5 industries to gain the most from 5G

It is not an exaggeration to say that the 5th generation of mobile technology will enable the 4th industrial revolution.   

This technology is what Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen calls a ‘disruptive innovation’ – a technology whose application significantly affects the way a market functions.   

Set to make its commercial debut in 2020, early versions of 5G are likely to pop up in Asia as the specifications are universally agreed and the technology is tested. We do however know that 5G has some ambitious goals including very low latency, lower power requirements, higher bandwidth, greater availability, faster speeds and more consistent coverage.   

Enabling this next generation of network will require significant investment from telecommunications providers and have far-reaching implications for the IT sector overall. But what other sectors are likely to be impacted by 5G? Here, Caroline Dowling, Business Group President at Flex, takes a look at 5 industries to gain the most from 5G. 


In medicine and healthcare - traditionally slow to embrace new technology - 5G will bring options to relieve pressure on hospital resources, give greater control over assets, offer new methods to deliver training, provide technology supports for mental health and allow more people to access more services faster and at vastly reduced costs through online patient portals.   

Wearable medical devices, including drug delivery systems will become commonplace and allow chronic conditions to be monitored from home. Using connected ‘wearables’ to monitor patients could save hospitals as much as 40% of their resources, while also giving confidence to clinicians and reassurance to patients. 

The ‘internet of things’ has been around for a very long time, but 5G will enable larger numbers of connected devices and their data to be collected and analysed. That means for example, a hospital can tag all of its assets, know where they are in real time and allocate them more efficiently.   

Augmented Reality (AR), a technology that overlays a computer-generated image onto a user's view of the real world, providing a composite view, will see surgeons as early adopters, using the technology as a training aid. The low latency and high speed of 5G makes this technology frictionless.    

Virtual Reality on the other hand, offers an immersive experience for a patient, and has applications in the mental health sector where it can be used to relax a patient who may suffer from anxiety or depression.   


How we get around will also be enhanced by 5G. Words like ‘transport’ and ‘vehicle’ are being replaced by bigger thinking terms like ‘mobility’. Recently, for example Ford declared itself a ‘mobility company’ to signify its focus on the border topic of how people will move from A to B in the future, and what systems and technologies are needed to enable that. 

The smarter city promises the connection of the city’s systems. Joined-up public transport services, dynamic traffic management, smart parking meters and smarter road infrastructure will all support the arrival of autonomous vehicles. 

The ultra-fast 5G network with extremely low latency allows a vehicle to communicate with its environment in almost real time. This allows the vehicle to dynamically adjust and react to its changing environment. The major benefit is of course, less accidents and road deaths. 

Fully autonomous vehicles are likely to evolve through several stages and manufacturers are already implementing autonomous features like ‘autonomous cruise control’, ‘automatic parking’ and ‘lane keep assist’. 5G will greatly speed up this evolution to fully autonomous vehicles and we may see new entrants like Google Auto or Apple Car play an important role in this category. 

Public transport will be a beneficiary too, allowing connected vehicles to be tracked in real time by customers. IoT technology will enable better planning of fleet maintenance so fewer assets are out of service at any one time. And this in turn should improve scheduling.   


A report by Ericsson and consulting firm Arthur D. Little released earlier this year, valued the 5G market at $1.23 trillion by 2026. The highest portion, 20% of this market, was attributed to Energy utilities. This dynamic sector is facing many challenges and opportunities much of which will be tackled with new 5G enabled services and applications.   

As energy grids get smarter, 5G is seen as the important link to support machine type communications (MTC) to protect and control the grid. As the number of smart meters grows, each with their own communication demands, only a high capacity, high band-width infrastructure can support them adequately.   

And the growth will continue in this sector as electric vehicles become more mainstream. Volvo, for example, have announced the end of combustion-engine-only cars and will shift to all electric in 2019. The growth in charging points for electric vehicles will also grow. 

Customers will benefit from real time information on energy usage at home and at work, and make efficiency adjustments based on that information. This allows the utility to better balance energy resources.   


The 4th industrial revolution is powered by robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, Augmented Reality and Cloud technologies, all of which will use 5G technology to allow machine to machine communication. This will become the backbone of manufacturing and related services in the future. 

Virtual Reality tools will allow you to configure and test the production-line design in the virtual world. And augmented reality tools can allow for workers to be assisted remotely to quickly solve problems and reduce travel costs. 

Automation with robotics is another feature of the factory of the future. About 50% of Flex manufacturing process are now fully automated. This allows for superior levels of accuracy and productivity beyond human ability. Most automation is used for work that would be considered unsafe, impossible or tedious for humans. Because automation tends to be task specific, it is understood that robots will be complementary to the human workforce, and not a replacement.   

According to Forrester Research, as a direct result of automation and artificial intelligence, close to 15 million new jobs will be created in the US alone (equivalent to 10% of the workforce) over the next decade.   

Media and Entertainment 

The rise of interactive and immersive technology, together with the growth of the consumer as co-creator of content has caused disruption in the media and entertainment sector. Digital content is being served and consumed in a variety of new ways, think Netflix, Amazon Prime, Microsoft HoloLens or Facebook’s Oculus Rift. All of these technologies will become even more mainstream with the arrival of 5G.    

The growing demand for video presents challenges to today’s cellular networks trying to distribute live video and audio across thousands of devices and multiple mobile network operators. Gamers looking for a VR experience need a better quality network too.    

5G is a catalyst for the media and entertainment services market where new business models will emerge forcing better collaboration between network service providers and their suppliers to deliver a better service to consumers. The network will be capable of supporting all use cases and will be scalable to adapt to future demands. 

While there are undoubtedly tremendous benefits to almost all industry sectors, it is also clear that 5G technology will take many companies out of their comfort zone. Often they lack the expertise to build a robust solution to help them exploit the new capabilities. This leaves the door open for new entrants to disrupt and displace. Partnership, collaboration and co-innovation will be the keys to success as business harness the power of 5G to bring more value to their customers. 

Caroline Dowling, Business Group President, Flex 

Image Credit: Supparsorn / Shutterstock

Caroline Dowling
Caroline Dowling is Business Group President at Flex, a $24Bn, 200,000 employee, global design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics company serving multiple industries and markets.