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With 5G firmly on the radar, what should businesses be doing to prepare?

Erik Brenneis

Erik Brenneis

CEO, Vodafone IoT

You can’t open the technology pages of a newspaper or website today without seeing an article that mentions, or is focused entirely on 5G. Spectrum auctions are in progress, trials are underway and cities around the world are starting to see services go live. Businesses are beginning to consider what the technology means to them, while device manufacturers are gearing up to produce handsets for consumers that demand the very best experiences.

How will 5G change things?

The discussion of 5G may seem like it’s based on hype, and it can be hard to cut through all the chatter to understand what the technology is set to change. Fundamentally, it’s right to be excited. 5G will eventually drive changes that are further-reaching and deeper than previous generations of networks.

Take IoT as an example – our recent IoT Barometer found that 34% of organisations are now using the technology. Businesses have long realised the value that IoT can bring to their organisations, with many users saying that they are now reliant on the benefits it can bring to them and putting it at the core of digital transformation.

We also found that 52% of IoT users are expecting to use 5G services to drive IoT. Why is this? Simply, 5G has the capability to connect more devices to the network, allow for the tailoring of services, while reducing delay (or latency).

It’s easy to get lost in the technical aspects of 5G, but broadly speaking a higher number of connections that are more capable than ever before will have a profound impact on the way that we live and work.

In connected vehicles, for example, telematics (data about the performance or location of the vehicle) will eventually grow into full-blown autonomous transport. 5G will for the first time allow vehicles to communicate with each other, with the cities in which they are driving and with the people on the street in a way that improves safety and efficiency.

In factories, the technology will connect not just the machines making produce, but also the goods going through it. Broader still, businesses could make use of holographic technology in meetings to improve ways of working and bring offices in different locations closer together.

What can we do about it?

The possibilities are huge – but this will be an evolution not a revolution, so businesses need not fear being left behind overnight. 5G networks will take a decade to roll out in full, evolving over time to gradually transform our society. It will build on capabilities today and keep developing in concert with new technologies and ways of living and working.

For businesses, the focus today should be on understanding this technology and planning for the opportunities and challenges it brings.

For example, 5G makes it viable for businesses to use cellular both instead of or as well as fixed networks for the first time, improving flexibility and time to market and removing a single point of failure. It’s also set to replace WiFi as the technology of choice for large, private campus-based networks, especially those running applications that demand quick responses or need to connect lots of machines or devices. One example would be an automated factory.

For now, boards should prioritise discovering how it could change their organisations for the better, rather than letting the hype distract from core goals.

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