5G certainly had its moment in the spotlight in 2020. From Huawei’s removal from UK infrastructure to Ericsson leading the UK’s nationwide deployment, it has certainly been a talking point from a political, economic and consumer perspective. But, how can businesses realize the potential of 5G? We read a lot about how it is going to transform our lives, from faster broadband speeds for home working to high-quality gaming, but many senior executives would be forgiven for not knowing where to start when it comes to implementing a 5G strategy for tangible business outcomes.
In this piece, I will explain five strategies businesses can take to kickstart their 5G digital transformation, so that they can reap the rewards of increased agility and extending customer reach, in 2021 and beyond.
Back to basics
Before we explore the five strategies, it is important to note that wireless WAN applications that are already strong with 4G will be even better with 5G and applications that couldn’t be run with 4G are now feasible thanks to 5G.
It’s also important to note that 5G is far more than one type of spectrum. In fact, there are three spectrum bands in 5G to be aware of: 4G LTE, Sub-6GHz and mmWave. Each has its own characteristics and trade-offs. Spectrum bands with high propagation have lower performance characteristics while spectrum bands with low propagation have high-performance characteristics. The essentials of each must be understood before getting underway with a 5G rollout.
Business leaders should meet with strategic lines of businesses and hold sessions with each to understand how the market and customers will change in two to five years’ time, for example. From here, business leaders can start to understand how technology can exploit these changes and how any technology gaps can stop them from seizing on new opportunities. What role can wireless WAN play in their plans and what steps can they be taking now to prepare?
After this exercise has taken place and these questions have been answered, business leaders can draw up a technology roadmap that can be signed off by different stakeholder groups such as finance, procurement and marketing who can help turn these plans into live projects.
With these basics in mind, we can explore the five strategies that businesses might take to drive 5G innovation...
1. The failover strategy
A wireless failover strategy is critical for organizations that rely upon outside connections to run their business such as cloud applications, POS systems and employee systems that all rely on always-on WAN connections. Often dual wired links share the same trench or terminate into the same local node. With a wireless connection, construction accidents and shared pathways can be minimized.
Fundamentally, a failover strategy creates a diverse path for high availability, acts as a solid foundation for WAN transformation and can be deployed easily from day one.
2. The bandwidth augmentation strategy
This is an excellent, highly flexible option for sites that require a diverse failover path and need more bandwidth. A wireless link can be turned up instantly for organizations that use both wired and wireless connections simultaneously. Each link can then be assigned to a traffic type or can be effectively bonded with advanced SD-WAN solutions.
3. The primary wireless strategy
The primary wireless strategy is a strong use case for businesses that require the full flexibility of wireless WAN and the performance of 5G. organizations that are scaling, frequently change their locations, have poor wired options, or have large national footprints are ideal users. Recent unexpected events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have shown the importance of this kind of flexible approach for things like pop-up testing centers.
A good example to also have in mind is that of a retail shop in an airport, for example, that would like to offer customers a virtual dressing room application. The airport itself would not likely provide network services that could support augmented reality. Yet, with 5G, the retailer could bring its own high-performance network into play. This is a typical example of how the primary wireless strategy can really come into its own.
4. The IoT strategy
As technologies such as cloud, IoT and AI converge, and 5G gains prominence, a greater opportunity for digital transformation will become apparent for many businesses. Retail, manufacturing and public services are just three examples of sectors that will need a coherent and forward-thinking connectivity strategy to power them forward. Thinking of manufacturing as an example, in hostile environments like chemical plants, organizations are often unable to run certain types of cables because any physical interaction may impact the material being produced. Many manufacturing plants are also in remote and rural areas. At the same time, increasingly, many tasks on the shop floor are carried out by robots. The use of robots of course would need to be wireless too and Wi-Fi won’t cut it due to potential interference with the transmissions. This is where 5G is a good option– the right wireless solution which can also be coupled with mobile edge computing solutions.
5. The mobile strategy
A slick 5G mobile strategy is perfect for environments with rich mobile applications and offers extended service to customers and constituents.
If we think of organizations that are depending on mobility such as the emergency services, 5G is going to have a transformative impact. Police cars, for example, now have vast amounts of technology embedded, such as cameras to better keep police officers and the public safe with incidents properly recorded. But, at the moment, any videos of crimes or incidents would need to be uploaded over Wi-Fi back at the station. With 5G in the picture, videos could get uploaded instantly in real-time from the vehicle itself which will ultimately improve safety, accountability, and community relations.
These are the five winning strategies that businesses across the UK can easily implement to ensure a successful and seamless digital transformation. ‘5G’ needn’t be unattainable or confusing. By making a clear roadmap of your business goals, and the technology you need to achieve them, this will stand you on solid ground to capitalize on the most effective 5G rollout strategy for you.
James Bristow, SVP EMEA, Cradlepoint