Categories: Industrial segments

5 Ways How 5G Will Help Embrace a Sustainable Future


When was the last time you did a zoom call, uploaded your family album on the cloud or grooved on an online dance workout? The answer is probably – just a minute ago. Last year was a watershed moment for networks and going forward these networks will play a foundational role in our lives and with 5G coming in, this future is not far away. The fifth generation of cellular network, or 5G as we know it, isn’t just a mobile network. It transcends the possibilities of today. 5G is not only expected to deliver new and advanced use cases, but it has the potential to make networks much more energy efficient.

Experts predict that 5G can drive up to 90% reduction in network energy usage and is a technology that aligns with the current needs of the economies and communities worldwide to decarbonize while sustaining a steady pace of growth.

5G applications can directly facilitate or indirectly shape policies for enlightened stewardship of natural resources, optimize emissions, deliver life’s necessities for marginalized communities, and much more. Some such 5G applications that hold many promises from a sustainability perspective include:

Sustainably improving agricultural yields

Scaling the global food production systems and agricultural value chains are essential to sustainably deliver on the nutritional needs of a projected 9.7 billion people globally by 2050. Further, The World Bank estimates that elevating agricultural processes can help reduce poverty for 75% of the world’s poor, living in rural areas and engaged as farm laborers. 5G unlocks new possibilities in agriculture, allowing farmers to track, monitor, and automate farm-to-fork activities with improved efficiency and uncompromised safety. It is vital, as erratic climate patterns and frequent extreme weather events pose an unprecedented risk for agricultural yield and directly impact the working condition of those employed in the sector.

Protecting the ecological heritage

Forests play an essential part in the functioning of global ecosystems. However, today, valuable forestry assets are incessantly being threatened. Here, 5G can play a decisive role in protecting forests and natural habitats in previously unimaginable ways through the intervention of human operators. IoT sensors embedded across terrains can monitor the health of trees, pollution levels, physical variables like temperature and moisture, the incidence of diseases. Further, with the low latency of 5G, it is possible to run AI-powered Audio/Video surveillance on vast tracts of land to counter illegal logging or poaching successfully, an approach used in Costa Rica to protect its rainforests. Similarly, water satellites equipped with 5G chipsets, AI, and microsensors can keep track and preempt ecological disasters

Elevating medical treatment outcomes

As telehealth emerges as a prime mode of consultation and healthcare delivery in the new normal,, the ensuing surge in data traffic is simply too much for the conventional networks to handle, resulting in lags. This is where 5G can intervene with distinction.

The low latency and high throughput of 5G networks mean that potentially life-saving decisions can be taken more quickly, elevating the treatment outcomes. 5G in healthcare can accelerate several existing use cases while creating new ones that are impossible to power through the earlier generations of wireless connectivity.

Unlocking knowledge for all

COVID-19 greatly disrupted access to education. Last year presented a fabulous opportunity for the world to bridge the rural urban education gap.  

The role of  5G technology in this sector can be diverse, including the improvement and student-teacher interaction and peer 2 peer collaboration in the backdrop of richer content delivery, integration of AR and VR into lab work for immersive learning in the real-time, and so on. But most importantly, 5G is expected to democratize education and level the playing field for those deprived due to cost or other reasons.

Ensuring Green Mobility

Research predicts that there will be more than 145 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. While it is indeed encouraging, currently, vehicles powered by Internal Combustion Engines continue to dominate the sales list of the automakers worldwide. Considering the implicit cost that hydrocarbon emissions enforce on the environment and the communities, for the time being, there should be ways to monitor and track carbon emissions, and 5G precisely delivers on that vision. Connected vehicles can stream diagnostic data from onboard sensors back to their manufacturers in real-time. Assimilating the data with usage patterns delivers insights for adjusting the performance and fuel efficiency remotely. Also, cellular vehicle-to-everything (Cv2x) technology allows vehicle-borne sensors to interact with other vehicles and infrastructure on the road over 5G, allowing onboard computers to assess the best route, saving fuel and reducing carbon emission in the process.

Thus, in an age marked by socio-economic inequities and discord, 5G is not merely a technology but an idea whose time has come.However, to prevent it from becoming merely a tool of financial profitability, benevolent regulatory guidance, social oversight, and corporate intent need to converge to preserve the status of 5G as a reckoning force for good.

By Akanksha Sharma, Global Head ESG – Social Impact, Sustainability & Policy, STL