A great deal can be achieved without investing in frontier connectivity. This is because even in the wealthiest economies, only a relatively limited set of leading companies are deploying the most ambitious use cases that can run even on today’s networks, from sensor-enabled inventory management to logistics tracking. As connectivity improves and hardware and applications become more affordable and mainstream, there is much more room for adoption to spread across domains, driving bigger productivity gains.
By contrast, use cases that require frontier connectivity such as high-band 5G could eventually generate some 20 to 30 percent of the potential impact, based on the use cases we have sized. High-band 5G will create greater network efficiency, boosting speeds and lowering latency even as providers accommodate more consumer-driven traffic and more devices. Existing use cases can run on a bigger scale while becoming more sophisticated and reliable. It is possible that the value of use cases running on frontier connectivity could exceed our estimates, depending on whether some high-potential but still speculative use cases like augmented reality and self-driving vehicles reach mass adoption by decade’s end. A stronger digital backbone can also support new applications we cannot predict today.
Advances in technology, coverage, and affordability can bring more of the world online. Aging or inadequate networks will be upgraded in future investment cycles, while new digital networks will reach some regions for the first time. Today 40 percent of the global addressable adult population is still under-connected (in other words, not yet using 3G-capable data networks or better) or altogether offline due to inadequate coverage, affordability, or relevance. By 2030, that share could be cut in half. This will be enabled by a combination of trends, including not only wider network coverage but also the growing affordability of devices and data plans, the development of more relevant internet content, and demographic and social shifts (like increasing urbanization rates). This newly online population will benefit from intermediate connectivity via 3G or 4G/LTE cellular networks for basic web browsing, consumer mobile phone applications, e-commerce, and online video. Global GDP could increase by another $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion as a billion people gain better access to digital information, tools, and services.