Last year was full of tech milestones, but perhaps the most important was the launch of the first-ever 5G networks— critical infrastructure that will allow us to fully unlock the potential of other emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and telemedicine.
Industry leaders have long touted 5G’s promise, imagining all the ways that next-generation networks could fundamentally transform healthcare, logistics, and everyday living. And consumers are buzzing, enjoying augmented/virtual reality and enhanced entertainment experiences. But while we’ve heard a lot about how revolutionary 5G could be, enterprise has yawned, adoption has been sluggish, and reality has yet to catch up with the rhetoric.
It’s no wonder that enterprise leaders have been reluctant to pursue 5G. Network deployment is still limited, the device ecosystem remains nascent, and the initial 5G use cases are far from riveting. Save for using 5G as “wireless fiber” for last-mile broadband access, few generate immediate and obvious ROI.
But here’s the reality: the enterprise landscape is changing rapidly, and businesses will need to invest in 5G today to fully capitalize on the opportunities of tomorrow. In 2020, expect to see three main trends driving enterprise interest in 5G: widespread automation, interest in network customization, and the increasing role of enterprise mobility.
DRIVING THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WITH 5G
We’ll see the effects across industries and geographies—from precision agriculture in the heartland, to fleets of autonomous vehicles on the streets, to smart factories that are safer and more efficient than those of generations past
This year, automated and autonomous technology will continue to proliferate as machine learning rapidly improves. We’ll see the effects across industries and geographies— from precision agriculture in the heartland, to fleets of autonomous vehicles on the streets, to smart factories that are safer and more efficient than those of generations past. But autonomous machines can’t function in a vacuum. They require sensors, cameras, and other sources of data that help them understand and respond to the environment around them—and they need a high-capacity network to transmit all that data.
For example, precision agriculture requires a vast array of sensors that collect data on moisture, temperature, and more. Likewise, shipyards and transportation depots must be able to track people, cargo, and dozens (if not hundreds) of crane arms all moving simultaneously. And smart warehouses must be able to carefully choreograph the movement of driverless heavy machinery. Too often, these facilities rely on Wi-Fi, which lacks the speed, range, and capacity to support large operations.
For enterprises looking to deploy automated tech, 5G’s low latency and high capacity will certainly make operations more productive. But more importantly, it’ll make them safer too, ensuring that sensors can adequately identify problems in real-time—before they become problematic.
MEETING CUSTOMIZATION NEEDS WITH 5G
In the coming years, companies will seek out ways to customize infrastructure to meet their unique needs—and 5G will usher in a new era of network customization that will hard for large enterprise to resist.
First and foremost, the advent of 5G will provide organizations the capacity, coverage, and latency required to do their work. Our current options aren’t cutting it. Wi-Fi doesn’t perform at scale, and 4G still lacks sufficient bandwidth—and often requires expensive infrastructure to run reliably.
But beyond the obvious performance benefits, 5G also offers the potential for network customization through network slicing, or allowing enterprises to allocate tiers of bandwidth toward specific network priorities.
Take, for example, a hospital, filled with physicians, nurses, patients, and visitors, all consuming bandwidth. The hospital’s top priority is patient care, and network slicing would allow them to designate a “mission-critical” network band for physicians to transmit and receive patient data. Meanwhile, patients would receive their own middle-priority band they could use to communicate with care givers and operate their personal devices. And visitors could access the lowest-priority tier to surf the web.
TRANSFORMING ENTERPRISE MOBILITY WITH 5G
In recent years, mobile computing technology has increased in power and customizability— and decreased in size and price—encouraging more organizations to integrate mobile devices into day-to-day operations.
We’ve seen this in the retail sector, where companies are using mobile tech to create richer customer experiences, manage inventory more effectively, and offer mobile points-of-sale. Healthcare providers are using tablets and more to deliver better patient management, better prescriptions, and better diagnoses. And companies of all kinds are looking for ways to elevate teleworking.
As mobile technology becomes increasingly indispensable, enterprises will need networks that can handle more devices and guarantee consistent, reliable coverage in business-critical settings. 5G will do exactly that.
Once fully implemented, 5G will bring us one step closer to a world that would’ve passed for science fiction just a couple decades ago. 5G will be an evolution, not a revolution; but with commitment and collaboration from all of us, can turn our vison into a reality that benefits companies and organizations everywhere.