5G is considered to be one of the largest market opportunities of this decade, with the significant roll-out of infrastructures and widespread adoption of services and devices. Not only is it set to boost the development and expansion of networks, but it will also accelerate a number of sectors including, computing, manufacturing, automotive and entertainment. In fact, by 2030 5G is forecasted to contribute $700 billion to the global economy. The growth of 5G technology is being driven by several aspects, most notably the increasing demand for resilient networks for consumers and businesses alike.
The UK recently announced plans to expand its network infrastructure to support 5G, with the aim to achieve over one billion connections by 2025. The technology is appearing in many markets, with adoption set to grow substantially in years to come. A recent report from EY stated despite positive investment intentions, many organizations remain at the very beginning of their 5G journeys. Only 3 percent of companies with current or future 5G investment plans currently have 5G operations in place within their company, 67 percent are engaging in 5G trials or discussing 5G investment with their suppliers, and 28 percent are planning 5G deployments for their business.
Whilst the technology promises a number of advantages, including faster and stable connectivity, many businesses are still considering what this means for them, their customers and other stakeholders. And most importantly, how can they best prepare their operations to fully take advantage of 5G in the future?
Business benefits of 5G
For companies in today’s increasingly connected world, 5G brings improved speeds of up to 20 times faster than 4G, in addition to greater network capacity to support the business's ambitious growth plans. What’s more, the amount of data that organizations are generating is drastically increasing each day, but with 5G network speeds, transferring vast amounts of data will no longer be a daunting challenge for businesses. This is vital with the introduction of hybrid working, as increased end-user speed will accommodate and improve remote working, ensuring employees are able to remain efficient and productive at home.
Emerging technologies like automation, cloud computing and AI can also benefit from 5G enablement. This is because it provides a platform needed for driving connectivity, allowing communications and consistent network speeds wherever and whenever employees are working. Ultimately, 5G can help businesses work quickly and effectively, in turn, creating significant cost benefits and increasing a company’s bottom line in the longer term.
Impact of Covid-19
However, 5G was sidelined for many businesses during the global pandemic, as the focus shifted to survival rather than technology innovation. One of the challenges for operators was that they had less opportunity to promote 5G’s biggest selling point of better capacity in urban areas due to social distancing and government-imposed lockdowns. During this time, there was also less need for mobile data, with the majority of people working from home and connected to WiFi. Nevertheless, as we move into our new normal, interest is set to bounce back in line with the growing number of 5G devices available in the market.
In addition, 5G has the potential to bolster economic growth in the UK. According to Vodafone, the technology could add as much as £158 billion to the economy and lead to the creation of new jobs and business opportunities. As well as enhancing network speed and increasing connectivity in geographical regions, 5G is positioned to benefit a number of key sectors, driving growth and improvement across multiple industries.
Furthermore, its importance has been reaffirmed during the pandemic, as working behavior shifted to remote working out of necessity. With faster speeds, lower latency and load balancing, 5G is positioned to address the difficulties that employers face when working from home. Therefore, this technology can help reinvent the way that businesses introduce new hybrid working models as workers start returning to the office. Looking ahead, businesses need to have a good understanding of the obstacles to overcome to take advantage of the imminent 5G opportunities.
Network considerations for companies
5G will be a key part of organizations’ operating environment and technology landscape going forward, but to realize the technology’s potential productivity and efficiency gains it will need a strategic approach. The first step in preparing for the 5G rollout involves identifying key areas for investment and pinpointing the company’s key drivers for growth. This will help decipher where best to invest in the technology to deliver the biggest benefits in the long term. It’s also critical to determine whether the organization’s existing infrastructure will be able to sustain the demand of 5G and considering a virtual network is often the best option to accommodate the required agility and flexibility that 5G brings.
Additionally, security threats derived from this technology need to be considered, as expanding the network's capabilities can open up new entry points for cyber attacks. It is recommended for businesses to secure their network with authentication software to provide sufficient security without compromising employee’s productivity. While tightening security measures within the company, business leaders can also introduce an education program to inform employees about best practices for 5G and ensure they are onboard with identifying potential threats during the technology rollout and beyond.
Future of 5G
The next generation of wireless connectivity has arrived. 5G has the capacity to support a huge number of connections simultaneously while improving speed, latency, reliability, and power consumption. This technology has not only transformed the technology landscape but provided an entirely new network experience for businesses. This creates exciting opportunities for organizations to change the way they operate, communicate with employees and adopt emerging technologies to improve their infrastructure.
However, to fully understand the benefits available and enable new use cases, business leaders need to fully understand the strategic implications during the 5G rollout period. This involves addressing the security risks in 5G networks, as there are more vectors through which cybercriminals can attack. Ultimately, 5G networks are here to stay, with remote working driving new opportunities for new network adoption and digital transformation.
Alan Hayward, Sales and Marketing Manager, SEH Technology