There is no doubt that the increase in speed and bandwidth of 5G will impact average consumers but the real beneficiaries of 5G technology will be businesses and vertical industries, especially the healthcare industry in Japan that has been exploring the use of 5G in recent years to address social issues.
Basic constraints drive the need for 5G in Japan. Mobile networks in Japan face capacity challenges due to densely populated cities and high unique mobile subscriber penetration rate, which is currently at, 93.3%. As a result, data traffic is expected to more than triple in Japan by 2021, driven by video usage and the shift towards more demanding technologies. In this case, the increase in speed and capacity with 5G will be more beneficial to the Japanese businesses and consumers than new use cases.
5G will also be able to address social issues pertaining to challenging demographics present in Japan, such as, aging population. Japan’s low birthrate and aging population, where more than a fifth of Japanese are now 70 years or older, puts pressure on the healthcare industry. There will be a shortfall of approximately 340,000 nursing care workers by 2025. 5G’s key feature of faster speed will be crucial in providing increased image quality. 5G will enable medical teams to receive information in real-time and make decisions with as much information, and as few mistakes as possible.
5G will disrupt and transform the healthcare industry in Japan, specifically, in the areas of telemedicine, healthcare wearables, and the use of virtual reality for healthcare.
- 5G will support real-time high quality video and enable mobile networks to handle telemedicine appointments. This will greatly increase the reach and speed of healthcare.
- Massive Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), is an ecosystem that accommodate billions of low energies connected medical and health-monitoring devices, clinical wearables and remote sensors. With 5G, it will enable doctors to receive patient’s medical data through electronic means.
- With 5G, it will enable virtual reality based therapy. Virtual reality has proven to reduce chronic pain by 25%. With virtual reality, it is cost-effective for hospital consumers as less time spent in hospitals.
All three major mobile operators, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank and startup mobile operator, Rakuten, has been allocated and assigned spectrum for 5G services. All four mobile operators have pledged a total of US$ 14.8 billion in investments and spending towards 5G research and development. Some fraction of this will go towards supporting government initiatives.
For instance, mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo and aged care startup, ‘Tellus You Care’, collaborated to conduct a proof-of-concept trial of a technology that remotely monitors people in aged care. The technology is a non-wearable smart plug-in device that wirelessly detects and communicates human activities in indoor locations and informs family members or doctors of abnormal situations. This technology will be able to address the issue of shortage in terms of healthcare workers in Japan; doctors or nurses are able to monitor their patients, regardless of the location. This will improve overall patient care.
In conclusion, 5G is able to provide the much needed stability, reliability, and constant performance required by electronic devices connected to patient data. As a result, 5G will be able to address the rising social issues trends present in Japan; such as rising aging population. Frost & Sullivan expects that 5G technology will continue to progress and facilitate innovation in the healthcare industry in Japan in the coming years.