Deloitte has released its 20th annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions report, which highlights how worldwide trends in TMT may affect businesses and consumers worldwide.

In addition, the report highlights how many of these trends are being driven by the global pandemic’s economic and societal impacts, resulting in intensifying growth in video, virtual, and cloud technologies, as well as in media segments such as sports.

“With the global pandemic intensifying, we are seeing some technologies and platforms growing at an unprecedented rate which is a source of both challenges and opportunities for our TMT clients in and across the continent,” said Mark Joseph, Deloitte Africa Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry leader. “We are, overall, excited by the catalytic and positive transformations and impact that these technologies, from 5G to virtual realities, present to Africa.”

5G is not hazardous to your health: Busting the radiation risk myth

As 5G becomes more widespread, some have sounded alarm bells about its supposed health hazards. The most common perception is that 5G causes cancer. The second fear is that 5G-emitted radiation weakens the immune system, enabling COVID-19 to spread.

We predict that in 2021, it is very unlikely that the radiation from 5G mobile networks and 5G phones will affect the health of any single individual, be it a 5G user, a user of any other generation of mobile phones, or any individual in the vicinity of a mobile network but not actually using a mobile device. “There is no link between the growth in COVID-19 infections and the roll-out of 5G networks,” said Joseph, “If education about 5G is to be effective in curbing popular fears, it needs to be compelling, consistent, and pervasive, and it needs to begin now.”

The 8K wave begins

Global sales of 8K TVs are likely to reach R50 billion in 2021, with equipment and services for producing 8K content generating hundreds of millions of rand more. These revenues will come predominantly from sales of 8K TV sets to consumers, with the standard becoming increasingly popular for the largest television set sizes. In addition, sales of equipment (such as cameras, monitors, storage, and computers) related to the creation and production of 8K content should generate hundreds of millions of rand globally for the year.

Next-generation RANs accelerate

Open and virtualised radio access networks (RANs) give mobile network operators (MNOs) the potential to reduce costs and increase vendor choice as they adopt 5G.

The open RAN market is still in its early days. We estimate that there are currently 35 active open RAN deployments across the globe, many of which involve MNOs testing open RAN in greenfield, rural, and emerging markets

Although deployments are starting slowly, they could easily double in 2021. While it may take anywhere from three to five years for the technology to fully mature, open RAN adoption should accelerate rapidly thanks to the logic of its network design and its strategic alignment with carrier needs. Economic and competitive forces are also converging to drive the market forward. If this trend continues, the open RAN market has the potential to grow substantially, with some estimating double-digit growth rates that will push open RAN to approach 10% of the total RAN market by 2025 from less than 1% today.

Education and the enterprise opt for virtual reality

The market for digital reality headgear is growing as immersive technologies gain popularity in the enterprise and for education. Deloitte predicts that, led by purchases by corporations and educational institutions, sales for enterprise and educational use of wearable headsets for virtual, augmented and mixed reality—collectively known as XR or digital reality—will grow by 100% in 2021 over 2019 levels.

Market growth for these types of headsets has already accelerated in some markets due to the risk of COVID-19 infection driving their use in teaching employees and students virtually rather than in person. With the pandemic accelerating the opportunity to demonstrate their value, digital reality headsets may continue to gain ground after the pandemic ends due to a variety of other benefits, such as lower cost, greater safety, and better learning retention.

The pandemic drives cloud growth

By some metrics, the cloud market grew even faster in 2020 than in 2019. According to the TMT Predictions report, this was driven by increased demand due to COVID-19, lockdowns, and the work-from-anywhere business environment. Deloitte predicts that revenue growth will remain greater than 30% for 2021 through 2025 as companies migrate to the cloud to save money, become more agile, and drive innovation.

With the pandemic driving more enterprises toward cloud, the market will likely emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. Cloud providers and others in the ecosystem will also have the opportunity to capitalise on increased usage, while cloud users can seek to explore new ways for the cloud to create value. In the near future, cloud technologies may become the dominant solution across all types of businesses.

Women and tech transform sports

While the number of sporting events slowed during 2020, the potential for growth ultimately did not. Deloitte predicts that two major trends in sports—the increased monetisation of women’s sports, and the use of digital to create a hyper-quantified athlete—will continue their upward trajectory.

Women’s sports are now on track to be worth more than a billion rand in the years ahead. Its ability to generate substantial TV audiences, deliver value to sponsors, and draw fans has been demonstrated on multiple occasions over the past decade. Just as COVID-19 has catalysed fundamental reappraisals of many aspects of society, Deloitte predicts that women’s sports will also be perceived, promoted, and commercialised in new ways.

Another ongoing shift in sports involves the use of athlete data collection and analysis. With this data becoming increasingly real-time, it is now possible to measure indicators inside as well as outside the body, creating hundreds of new metrics to feed into decision-making—creating, essentially, the digital athlete. With the hyper-quantified athlete offering such strong potential, Deloitte predicts that by the end of 2021, multiple professional sports leagues will establish new formal policies around the collection, use, and commercialisation of player data.

Unleashing Industry 4.0 with the intelligent edge 

The intelligent edge—the combination of advanced wireless connectivity, compact processing power, and AI located near devices that use and generate data—is already animating some of the largest technology and communications companies on the planet. Deloitte predicts that in 2021, the global market for the intelligent edge will reach R180 billion, continuing a CAGR of around 35%. That increase is being driven primarily by telecommunications companies and their expanding 5G networks, along with hyperscale cloud providers. These highly capitalised leaders’ trailblazing may make it easier for companies across multiple industries to attain the intelligent edge.

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