The international network is set for transformation. 5G is here, and it’s much more than just a 4G upgrade. 5G will accelerate growth across all industries with its advanced connectivity, barely-there latency, and reduced complexity. Here, I explore what 5G means for cities, countries, and companies.
The catalyst of innovation
5G will mean connections that are faster than ever before. Business operations will reach new levels of efficiency, as processes are increasingly automated. Meanwhile, real-time communications delivered quickly, reliably, and with ultra-low latency will mean that critical decisions can be made in a fraction of a second.
This will mark a new era of super connectivity and unprecedented scalability. And the potential cuts across multiple different markets – from life-saving surgery to retail creating digital customer experiences.
5G also means greater innovation. Faster connections will trigger the “network effect”, where the value of a product or service increases as the volume of users increases. Because 5G will connect millions of users and will also have millions of uses across multiple industries, it will lead to accelerated innovation – as network connections interact, bouncing off each other and speeding up ideas.
As a result, early adopters of 5G will have a significant competitive advantage, especially as innovation is continuously sped up with new users. This speed of innovation will trigger new innovations and use cases for 5G; attracting even more investment and economic advantage.
Because 5G is location-dependent, almost inevitably, this will lead to the development of super cities. Talent will be drawn to the cities and countries that are at the cutting-edge of tech, adding even more users to the network and driving innovation even further forward. As a result, those that adopt 5G early are likely to have a sustained leadership position.
In developing countries, 5G has the power to skyrocket economic potential or to decimate their growth. It can close, create, or expand worldwide economic gaps. To highlight this importance, in China, $400bn has been assigned to 5G-related investment.
Over in the UK, there is a 5G Testbeds and Trials programme underway at DCMS to understand the challenges and potential of the new technology, including use cases. The testbeds received a total investment of £41m from the private and public sector funding, as well as government grants, and are due for completion by 2020.
Meanwhile, major investment has also been committed to projects across the UK looking at roads, rail, and 5G security to get the UK ready for 5G.
Investing in 5G as early as possible is vital. While shaving milliseconds off connections doesn’t mean much for the average user; it can be a real differentiator for businesses, cities, and countries. Especially as emerging tech trends like IoT, AI, Blockchain, and VR/AR gain ground.
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What are the challenges to adoption?
The potential for 5G is almost limitless. But unfortunately, so is the potential cost. Deploying the technology requires extensive infrastructure upgrades, as thousands of smaller cells will need to be deployed to densify the network (5G is all about location, and those that are not within range risk missing out).
While many UK mobile operators, including Vodafone, EE, BT Mobile, and, more recently, O2, have already switched on their networks, funding 5G remains a key challenge. Network providers do not directly benefit from the “network effect”, even potentially being adversely affected as the competitiveness of the service declines over time. Some mobile operators have also announced that they are not planning on charging consumers more for 5G, meaning they will need to find another way to foot the bill.
As a result, operators will likely focus on enterprises, content providers, and partnerships to make money and demonstrate use cases. Many network providers are already doing just this. However, larger companies will have the natural scalability, appetite, and capability to pursue these partnerships – potentially, causing an unfair advantage over SMEs.
In addition, network providers will need to offer coverage across all parts of the UK to ensure the entire country has access to ultra-fast 5G services. If remote or less wealthy parts of the UK don’t have the same opportunities, it could result in an economic gap.
Currently, most network providers are focusing on cities and towns. This focus could be further influenced by trying to attract investment from large businesses, which are typically city-based. Government investment could help to stretch this investment gap, but its policy will need to be careful about not unbalancing the delicate telco ecosystem.
5G has the power to revolutionise our work, cities, and lives. However, its impact may not be felt for decades to come, if the rate of 3G and 4G growth are any indication. According to the GSMA, 4G usage will not surpass 50% of all subscribers globally until 2023 – 14 years after release.
And even though there will likely be variation in adoption between countries, still only one in seven mobile connections will be 5G by 2025. This highlights the significant gap that could exist between those that run with 5G and those that are slow to pick up the pace. A gap that unfortunately may affect those that need it most.
Adoption will likely spring from competitive advantage. As more countries, cities, and companies embrace 5G, there will be greater pressure for others to follow suit. This will create a snowball effect, while early adopters will already be ahead of the pack. And when it comes to 5G, being first over the line is game-changing.
How could 5G affect you? If you’re working in Cloud and Infrastructure, we can help get your business ready for the future. I’m a Cloud and Infrastructure specialist, so I work exclusively with candidates and contractors, and clients looking to work or hire in this space. Reach out to me via Andrew.Harrison@onezeero.co.uk to find out more about the industry and our opportunities – or see our current Cloud & Infrastructure job listings.