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The Path to 1.5 Billion 5G Smartphones

As well as faster 5G smartphones, 5G will enable new services, businesses and opportunities

People using cellphones

There will be one billion 5G smartphones in use by the end of 2022, according to an Arm-commissioned report by Newzoo on the impact of 5G on gaming. By 2024, predicts Ericcson, that will have risen to 1.5 billion.

5G is already proving itself a transformative technology within the Fifth Wave of Computing, enabling new services, businesses, and opportunities while also helping to reach our own prediction of one trillion connected devices by 2035, many of which will be 5G smartphones.

At Arm TechCon 2018, Marcelo Claure, Chief Operating Officer at SoftBank, stated that the future 5G network driven by SoftBank will lead to 10x increased connectivity, 10x lower latency and 100x faster speeds compared to 4G. 18 months later it’s well on its way to doing just that in today’s range of 5G smartphones.

All of this stands not only to enable a raft of new and emerging use cases that will become a prominent part of our daily lives but also substantially improve current technology experiences, such as how we use 5G smartphones and PCs, engage with retail or interact with voice assistants.

The societal impact of 5G

Before delving into 5G smartphones, it is important to reflect on its likely societal impact which promises to be very significant. Firstly, the 5G rollout is predicted to lead to trillions of dollars being invested into the global economy and millions of jobs being created. The Ericsson Mobility Report from June 2018 estimated that there will be annual global investment of $200 billion between 2020 and 2035, with 22 million jobs likely to be created worldwide by 2035.

You only have to look at the amount of business, jobs, and investment that were generated as a direct result 4G to realise that the impact of 5G will be huge, and potentially even greater. Secondly, the massive, super-fast connectivity of 5G will substantially increase the economy of scale, with this helping innovation around smart cities, smart homes, and smart buildings. Essentially, everything—not just 5G smartphones—will have the potential to be connected. Thirdly, the near-zero latency of 5G will push the boundaries of “mission-critical” use cases, enabling the further development of medical surgery via robots, emergency services, and autonomous driving.

System design challenges

Before getting too carried away about the unprecedented opportunities from 5G smartphones and other 5G devices within the Internet of things (IoT), it is important to consider the ongoing technological challenges brought on by the new portfolio of different and emerging use cases and service types. The 5G rollout is likely to present a number of system design challenges on devices, which will be focused around three areas – size, power, and performance. In many ways, the opportunities from 5G solutions will be redundant if the devices are not up to the mark.

The increased speeds through 5G will lead to power and thermal challenges for devices made even more difficult by the fact that devices and batteries are getting thinner. Moreover, the higher throughput from 5G will push 5G smartphones to the limit, with this being a whole system computing challenge. At the moment, it is difficult to design products that will meet the requirements of the 5G mobile architecture, as its potential is limitless but still largely unknown. The one thing we do know is that more compute processing power will be needed.

Looking more broadly on the network side, having to support a higher data rate, higher capacity and lower latency due to the 5G rollout is likely to put a strain on network deployments and coordination, leading to denser and more hierarchical networks. As a result, there could be a heavier use of edge computing and fog networks. Networks will also have to handle a number of conflicting requirements, such as billions of low-end devices with low-data rates, together with smartphones with high-data rates and sensitive mission-critical devices that cannot afford data delays. In order to support the 5G rollout, networks will need to heavily rely on evolutions of new development techniques, such as Network Function Virtualisation, to enable the flexible use of fixed computing resources.

How Arm is driving 5G smartphones

Arm’s portfolio of products helps to meet the diverse range of computing needs and spans different key areas related to the 5G rollout, from cloud and edge network infrastructure to low-power processors. In addition, we are well-positioned to address any new challenges that 5G will bring to 5G smartphones and the network infrastructure itself. Our high-performing and power-efficient Cortex-A processors will be at the heart of the next wave of 5G smartphones, enabling a higher performance that can handle the increased speed and throughput from 5G.

Exciting 5G opportunities

5G presents phenomenal opportunities, but the entire ecosystem must be prepared to grasp them. Significant changes to existing use cases and the creation of entire new complex use cases enabled by 5G are exciting, but we need to have the architectures and processors in place to support the increased workloads on devices.

Currently, as detailed above, Arm has a number of products, processors, and technologies that could support the next wave of 5G smartphones and other 5G-ready devices. However, we’re acutely aware that more products will need to be developed to meet the power, performance and compute challenges that are likely to emerge. This was a key theme reflected in our 2020 Mobile IP launch, with our latest IP helping to deliver true digital immersion for the 5G era. Arm stands ready to support our partners as the 5G world comes online.

Learn more about Arm 5G solutions and prepare for constant connectivity.

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