A new era of connectivity is coming
Earlier in 2018, we revealed the answer to a survey that asked readers what they thought would be the most influential technology of 2018. Out of the six options, AI received the lion’s share of the vote at 42 per cent, while 5G was chosen by 10 per cent of respondents. As the hype over AI continues, so too has the uncertainty surrounding the next generation of wireless connectivity.
While 5G may not have broken into the mainstream yet, it is nonetheless backed by a host of international organisations. 4G’s replacement promises faster connectivity, lower latency, the ability to handle intense data flows, and lower power consumption to boot. But what does this mean for businesses? Can they expect to see the benefits of 5G any time soon?
5G is already here… Sort of
5G networks have been tried and tested by various different companies, including mobile operator EE. Next year, EE plans to bring 5G services to 16 UK cities, starting with six major urban centres including London, Birmingham and Manchester. They won’t be the only ones. US telecommunications giant Verizon, electronics company Keysight Technologies and Italian telco Wind Tre are a handful of the other businesses keen to roll out 5G solutions. The reason for their interest is clear – 4G networks are struggling to handle demand. The alternative is better, faster, stronger connectivity in the form of a next gen network.
Making the connection
From a business perspective, the adoption of 5G is a very interesting prospect. For an individual, poor connection and limited data transfer are a mild inconvenience… But for a business, they can create serious problems. Today’s digital business climate necessitates an online presence, with reliable services and systems for employees and customers alike. Without this it is all too easy to fall behind, which is why businesses in areas with poor broadband are in such a difficult position. What 5G will offer is Fixed Wireless Access, so that any company, regardless of location, can get access to quality broadband. For businesses that already have a decent connection, 5G will facilitate seamless content distribution across multiple devices. This could be within the company itself, in the form of real time data visualisation via virtual or augmented reality, or for its customers.
5G is fundamental to the expansion of the Internet of Things, which will turn traditional workplaces into collaborative, digital entities rather than fixed, rigid spaces. Instead of supporting personal devices, 5G enterprise networks will also encompass sensors, wearables, appliances, and a range of digital displays. In other words, 5G will help to build the truly connected workspace – and that space won’t necessarily be a physical one. From a logistical standpoint, businesses will be able to track where products are at any given point, and relay this information back to central servers instantly. Automated supply chain management has already had a huge effect on the way products and services are developed and distributed. Imagine this on a much faster, more accurate, and highly visible level. Another hugely important factor to consider is data exchange between companies and regulators. With 5G, compliance issues could become obsolete as every business is kept up to date with regulatory changes as soon as they come into effect.
While 5G may not come with the instant gratification of ubiquitous connectivity, it will lay the foundations for a world where latency and lags are a thing of the past. If you’re a CEO sat in a virtual meeting room on the cusp of a business defining deal, then the value of digital reliability is clear. Despite 5G’s relatively low profile, it’s impossible to consider the impact of transformative tech such as AI, AR, VR, and the IoT without first working to improve connectivity. Any business that expects to take advantage of these technologies should also be aware that 5G is very much the key to making them happen. When this will happen is anyone’s guess, but EE’s announcement for a 2019 rollout is a very promising start.
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