Businesses small and large should be able to use 5G technology to boost operations, better serve customers, and leapfrog competitors.
The 5G wave is approaching fast. If you’re uncertain what which means, don’t worry, you’re not by yourself. Despite its capability to change how companies across industries conduct business, the next-generation cellular network still remains widely misunderstood.
Most media coverage has centered on the technology’s capability to deliver faster speeds-around 20 times that of 4G. However, this only represents one element of the disruption and enterprise capabilities that 5G is poised to provide, for Fortune 500 companies and smaller businesses alike.
Below, we unpack the reality behind five common misconceptions about 5G and its own effect on businesses large and small.
A lot of the buzz around 5G has centered on the potential to improve speed. It’s understandable; download and upload speeds alike on some types of 5G connections will be ridiculously fast-downloading a whole movie in 35 seconds, for example, vs. 27 minutes on the average LTE network today.
The attention on speed, while warranted, can detract from 5G’s other, equally impactful benefits. “5G is a wide and versatile technology. It’s not about a very important factor like speed or one use-case like fixed-wireless access,” says Karri Kuoppamaki, Vice President, Technology Development and Strategy at T-Mobile who plays an integral role in the company’s 5G deployment. Instead, “it’s about building on what’s set up today while at exactly the same time improving it, as well as perhaps moreover, expanding the scope of wireless technologies to new capabilities, services, segments, and enterprise services which have specific requirements that today’s technologies don’t address but 5G can.”
Much larger than 4G, 5G’s bandwidth provides the wide-scale ubiquitous coverage essential for devices (from phones to cars) to interface with each other and their surroundings. And its own low latency-the ability for the network to process data with short, almost non-existent lag time-could eliminate barriers for use cases like self-driving cars or virtual reality, which require near-instantaneous feedback. (Imagine how a straight seconds-long delay could affect the safety of your ride.) 5G also promises to unlock significantly improved battery life that is a boon for various Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
“5G is a platform for innovation,” says Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, a business analyst and director at Strategy Analytics. She believes that wide-ranging versatility, instead of a couple of features, makes the technology truly revolutionary and with the capacity of not merely improving a dizzying selection of operations but enabling entirely new ones. Welsh de Grimaldo continues saying, later on, a 5G network perseverence interconnected cities, autonomous cars, and automated manufacturing, which are a few types of applications that 4G can’t fully support today.
Will Townsend, a senior industry analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, says, “frequently when people discuss 5G, it’s very grand. It’s autonomous driving, it’s smart factories” or applications that enterprises with big budgets can only just afford. “However, the delivery of real-time, high-resolution mobile video capabilities given the reduced latency will unlock a bunch useful cases for smaller businesses, from technical troubleshooting in the field to immersive service delivery.”
Many small enterprises still have challenges with getting affordable, consistent internet connectivity – a concern that is sustained for businesses in rural communities who’ve been left on the incorrect side of the digital divide. “For smaller businesses in particular, among the problems is a insufficient competitive options in terms of connectivity,” says Anshel Sag, a business analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. “I believe with 5G, you are likely to start seeing far more competition in having affordable and fast internet connectivity. The corresponding implications are essential for smaller businesses, from fundamentals such as for example reliable mobile coverage to next-generation use-cases like VR-based collaboration tools and predictive maintenance systems.”
“Each new era of connectivity helps level the playing field for small company,” says Mike Katz, Executive Vice President, T-Mobile for Business, who leads the company’s B2B strategy. “Before 4G, services such as for example ridesharing, cloud storage and new mobile social media applications weren’t possible at scale. The 3G networks that preceded 4G simply weren’t fast, strong, or reliable enough to process the vast levels of data required to make sure they are an excellent experience. 5G represents the chance for an exponentially larger revolution than previous wireless network upgrades therefore the potential scale of change will be much greater-for small, medium and large businesses alike.”
Historically, each iteration of wireless network technology has replaced the prior generation. “Today, in case you have a smartphone, it could hook up to 2G, 3G, or 4G-but only 1 at the same time,” Kuoppamaki says.
Not with 5G, which is “the first technology generation that may allow devices for connecting to both 5G and 4G LTE simultaneously.” Quite simply, 5G doesn’t supersede 4G, it enhances it. As 5G networks continue steadily to mature they’ll rely, at least initially, on 4G capabilities. “It’s likely to be the very best of both worlds when it comes to experience,” Kuoppamaki says.
On a practical level, this implies many applications that work fine on 4G-such as video conferencing, smartphones, and augmented reality-will experience gradual improvements as 5G is put into the prevailing 4G network.
5G will not operate at its best about the same spectrum. Instead, it could be deployed on three main layers, each using its own strengths, which complement each other. Low-band spectrum, typically a spectrum below 1GHz, can offer wide, consistent coverage that doesn’t need a high data transfer but is crucial to enabling nationwide 5G coverage, including in rural areas still struggling for connecting to high-speed internet. Additionally it is with the capacity of supporting extended battery life for IoT devices, some up to a decade. Next is mid-band spectrum-usually between 1GHz and 6GHz- a high-capacity, low-latency spectrum able to handle use cases such as for example augmented reality, wearables, and critical IoT applications that require near-instantaneous data response rates. Unfortunately, most mid-band spectrum is unavailable for 5G because it’s already used for 4G LTE, and redeploying spectrum will need time. And at the very top, there will be the ultra-high frequencies, such as for example millimeter wave, typically a spectrum above 24GHz, that can be deployed to supply lightning-fast data speed, much larger capacity, quality, and low latency, but usually do not travel far, and can’t penetrate buildings and even windows.
“In practical deployments of mmWave spectrum, we’ve seen cell ranges of ranging from a couple hundred feet to perhaps a thousand feet roughly,” Kuoppamaki says. High frequencies also don’t penetrate objects well, which includes led to the fact that 5G doesn’t work in buildings. While millimeter wave “is great for high traffic hot spots within an urban environment,” Kuoppamaki says, “in and of itself it’s not the response to 5G. However, most applications don’t need ultra-high speeds; they want consistent coverage.”
Lower frequencies are “in a position to proceed through concrete walls and brick in ways a millimeter wave signal never could,” says Sag. After the network is mature, the interplay of most three spectrums means “it will be possible to obtain additional signal in more places than you ever could before.” Sag noted that will ultimately unlock new, innovative solutions for next-generation applications that want high-bandwidth, low latency and always-on connectivity such as for example self-driving cars and drone delivery.
“People’s biggest apprehension is that the technology isn’t ready…but I believe businesses ought to be constantly re-assessing whether 5G is practical for them today, and constantly looking at what offerings can be found in their area,” Sag says. “Things are changing so quickly; maybe 5G doesn’t seem sensible for your business today, but there exists a possibility that in five months the network changes drastically and it’s now in your favor to have 5G.”
By the finish of 2019, businesses and consumers will experience “the first taste of what 5G is about and what its capabilities are,” Kuoppamaki says. When it comes to rollout, “history is an excellent teacher.” The first 4G networks were launched in regards to a decade ago; as the user experience was vastly more advanced than 3G, it took time for folks and businesses to comprehend its capabilities.
“That’s the wonder of 5G: it’s a transformational power that might not be evident from day one but, once available everywhere, begins stimulating innovation rapidly,” Kuoppamaki says.