What is 5G? How is it relevant to your business now, and how can you be prepared?
Everything we use today that leverages big data or performance analytics requires a digital connection. And as uptake increases and the race to digitalisation accelerates, right now is a good time to consider, where does 5G sit within your digital transformation journey?
5G offers organisations everywhere the power to solve this challenge. But how does it work? Whom will it benefit, and what can you do now to harness that power and gain a competitive advantage? We caught up with Juliette Lee, mobile sales director at Opus, to find out more
What is 5G for business?
5G stands for ‘fifth-generation mobile network’. At the time of writing, it’s the term used to describe the newest global wireless standard.
Four key areas set it apart from the 2G/3G/4G mobile networks that have gone before it:
Speed: 5G is the fastest mobile network developed to date.
Latency: With the lowest latency levels, connectivity is much more reliable.
Bandwidth: Transfer huge amounts of data at any given time.
Capacity: Users can access and make use of the network effortlessly.
“Alone, each of these factors improves network performance and the performance of the technology harnessing it”, Juliette explains.
“Take the automotive sector, for example. Before 5G, the development of autonomous vehicles was hamstrung by the speed of existing network signals. Electric cars require a signal speed that’s almost instantaneous. 5G will be one of the technologies that offer that. When it’s fully empowered, 5G will be the technology driving people-less cars.”
By providing improved speed, latency, bandwidth and capacity, 5G is poised to deliver network capabilities with which businesses across sectors can do so much more.
The potential of 5G for business
“Some markets, like retail and many industrial segments, are already deploying IoT (Internet of Things) systems using older technologies to unlock new efficiencies”, Jules reveals. “The public sector is also leveraging cloud computing to improve local services and the systems underpinning them.”
For others, particularly across the private sector, the opportunity is now to ready your operations and gain a competitive advantage when 5G becomes widely available.
What do those opportunities look like and how will 5G deliver them?
Hybrid working capabilities
“As a network solution, 5G’s hybrid working capabilities can’t be overlooked”, Juliette explains. Speed, latency, bandwidth and capacity are all critical when employees are working on the move or visiting clients. If your team’s business mobiles are powered by 5G, the quality of their calls — from the audio to the video link — will be significantly better, and they will be able to deploy multiple applications while on the road or on a video conference call.”
As well as future-proofing organisations’ business mobile estates for existing trends, Juliette predicts that 5G will provide core capabilities essential for even more exciting functionalities.
“The most forward-thinking organisations will be looking to truly blend the face-to-face business model with the remote trends we’re riding now using holographic technology. This functionality is only around two or three years off now and it will be 5G that powers it.”
Building design has changed enormously over the last 20 years to meet new and emerging regulations. As a result, our offices are warmer, quieter, more resistant to weather, longer-lasting — and denser, limiting the network coverage available to employees inside
“Most networks will advise Wi-Fi calling as a solution to counteract a lack of mobile signal in a building”, Juliette reveals, “but this puts enormous pressure on in-house Wi-Fi and SD-WAN deployments, especially for large estates, with direct impacts on voice and video quality, for example. In-house coverage solutions can potentially solve this.”
In the future, utilising 5G technology, businesses will be able to build their own self-coverage that will magnify their network’s micro-sites and macro-sites. A costly option on paper, its value can significantly outweigh its overhead when everyone within the building can access the 5G network.
Dedicated and hybrid MPNs
A dedicated MPN (Mobile Private Network) is a virtual private network that allows voice services on mobile handsets to be deployed over it. Organisations will be able to choose between a standalone MPN or a private MPN, and they work by granting the business control over the private network according to their specific needs. They also offer improved security over public networks.
“The advance of 5G has enabled that”, Juliette says. “MPNs are not something that 3G or even 4G have been able to support. With 5G under the bonnet, this will be a realistic option.”
Organisations looking to embrace a more gradual transition will be interested in a hybrid MPN, which offers similar benefits across a part-public, part-private network.
In 2020, Ford deployed a 5G scheme across its operations, leading to widespread automation using fully deployed robotics delivered by 5G MPN SIMS. The benefits included real-time control, analysis and remote support. Ford increased its efficiency, output and revenue streams by an exponential amount and offered those employees whose jobs had been automated schemes to upskill and train in new business areas.
“One of the most exciting parts of 5G yet to come is network slicing”, Juliette confesses. “As its name suggests, this will enable an organisation to receive a ‘slice’ of the network. Coupled with the government-grade security this will confer. It has huge implications for businesses in terms of being able to upscale the bandwidth, for example. As the trends for digitalisation and IoT accelerate, that’s exactly what tomorrow’s organisations will need.”
Network slicing isn’t available yet, but it’s anticipated in the next 2-3 years, making now the perfect time for organisations to review their network requirements and plan ahead.
Network slicing isn’t the only component of 5G still to come. The business networks are still defining their big data solutions, but as Juliette explains, that doesn’t mean businesses should look away.
“5G’s business potential is phenomenal and harnessing it for your own operations won’t happen overnight. The public sector is already making huge strides in terms of preparing for smarter cities powered by IoT deployments. As issues such as sustainability once more take centre-stage, the abilities to make public waste services more efficient and better manage traffic are going to play a vital role in helping councils to meet green targets, for example.”
As we have already touched on, other sectors are also switching on to 5G’s applications. As a big data solution, it’s still being built, but the opportunity is now for businesses to prepare.
“The early adopters of this technology are the ones that will drive their revenues and they'll absolutely leave the competition behind”, Juliette states. “That starts with understanding its capabilities and the journey towards the ‘5G trophy’. That’s where my team and I come in.”
Juliette and her team are already discussing with clients, the benefits of things such as moveable broadband, underpinned by the intelligent mobile data due to the speed, latency, bandwidth and capacity provided by 5G.
Juliette explains. “They’re not a piece of hardware or even software that organisations can use. That can make them hard to see. But they’re arguably more important than either because they power everything. The organisation that empowers its workforce with this technology will always be there for its customers. This is the future.’