2020 tech will be about 5G, satellites, headphones: Deloitte

Shruti Shekar
Telecom & Tech Reporter
Wireless AirPods are demonstrated following the product launch of the iPhone 7 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (Photo by Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

Deloitte predicts private 5G networks, low-earth orbit satellites and higher sales of smartphone accessories will be technology topics of prime interest in Canada this year. 

Duncan Stewart, director of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte Canada, said in an interview that private 5G network trials are trending in Germany, South Korea and the U.K. and we should “expect Canada to follow quite closely.”

A city or company can opt for a private 5G network by building its own network infrastructures like towers and cables. Then it would contract network support from a mobile operator, Deloitte’s Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Predictions 2020 report said. Alternatively, it can build and operate its own 5G network using its own spectrum. 

Spectrum helps transmit signals to operate and power various services in the wireless industry. In Canada, the government is in charge of allocating spectrum to companies through a closed auction.

“It’s a good thing that Canada has not laid out all the spectrum. That may happen with private 5G, it may be necessary for regulators to set aside some spectrum for private 5G instead of public 5G,” Stewart said. 

“And if you’ve already auctioned off all the bands to the public providers, there wouldn’t be anything left for private. So it may, in fact, be a good thing that Canada has not moved as fast as some others.” 

Right now, Canada does not have the necessary spectrum to roll out 5G networks that will eventually power wireless services, and won’t until at least 2021.

Stewart said that private 5G networks are best used for ports, industrial environments, manufacturing plants, and logistics centres; all locations where highly sensitive information is managed.

The report predicts that more than 100 companies worldwide “will have begun testing private 5G deployments by the end of 2020, collectively investing a few hundred million dollars in labour and equipment.”

Growth of low-earth orbit satellites

By the end of 2020, the report predicts there will be more than 700 low-earth orbit satellites that will “offer global broadband internet.” 

These satellites orbit close to the earth’s surface, giving it the ability to transmit data and offer telecommunications services at faster speeds and cost less than building network infrastructure on the ground. This is especially beneficial in remote and rural locations where it can cost millions of dollars to build infrastructure to roll out broadband services. 

“In some areas like Canada’s north, there may be partial service by the end of this year,” Stewart predicted, adding that it would benefit Canadians who have very slow connectivity or no access at all. 

The federal government indicated earlier last year that it plans to connect 100 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet services by 2030. In July 2019, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced $85 million of investment in Canadian satellite company Telesat to build and test its low-earth orbit satellite constellation.

Smartphone accessories 

Stewart said that the sale of smartphone accessories will grow this year. In 2020, the report projected the global smartphone accessory market to be worth just over $100 billion. 

“The reason the smartphone accessory market is bigger than, [for example,] the [virtual reality] goggle market is that people actually love their phones and use them all the time,” Stewart said. “Everybody in Canada has a phone and uses it between two and 10 hours a day. Nobody in Canada or almost nobody has a [virtual reality] headset and the people who have them almost never use them.”

Stewart expects growth in the wireless headphone market will grow because Canadians may choose to replace their wired headphones. The report said 129 million units of wireless headphones will be sold in 2020 globally, compared to 46 million in 2019. Canadians will upgrade because they want hassle-free products with better audio quality, Stewart said.