5G is coming to a town or city near you soon. If it hasn’t already arrived, that is. But what is 5G, why is it such a key technology trend and, most importantly, what should businesses do to prepare for 5G? Read on to find out.
5G: The 30-second explainer
5G stands for fifth-generation cellular wireless communications. The latest in networking technology promises us greater stability, faster connection speeds, lower latency (i.e., increased responsiveness), the ability to connect many more devices at once, and the ability to cope with yet more data.
5G takes advantage of higher-frequency bands in the radio spectrum that have a lot of capacity but shorter wavelengths. This could make mobile internet as fast, if not faster, than hardwired fibre connections. In fact, when fully deployed, industry experts predict 5G networks will be 10 to 20 times faster than 4G.
Why does 5G matter?
Mobile networking may not seem as sexy or exciting as other technology innovations, such as AI, robotics, and self-driving cars, but it's the backbone of our online society. Today, our apps and devices, and the cloud services that power them, are sending and receiving a constant stream of real-time data. None of this would be possible without wireless technology.
5G networks can cope with a greater number of connected devices in the same area – around 1 million devices per square kilometre, compared to the 100,000 or so devices that 4G networks can handle. Plus, 5G towers are significantly smaller than previous generations – about the size of a minifridge – meaning they can be put in locations that would never have worked in the past. In theory, they could easily be placed on every lamppost in the land…
All this will facilitate more data, but also richer, more varied streams of data. As such, 5G will drive advances in many other tech trends, including the sexy stuff like AI, robotics, and self-driving cars. That is what makes 5G so important: its potential to open up exciting opportunities for innovation.
3 ways businesses should prepare for 5G
Think 5G doesn’t matter to your business? Think again.
Sure, it’s early days for the business potential of 5G, but that doesn’t mean 5G won’t have a huge impact on organisations. For one thing, because 5G can cope with so many more devices, we may see a boom in smart devices and smart sensors. Naturally, this will bring new data, which in turn brings new opportunities to learn from data – particularly using analytics techniques such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, which rely on vast amounts of data. To put it another way, 5G could ultimately help make your business smarter.
And from a practical, logistics point of view, 5G means mobile networks will finally be a true replacement for wired networks, which may allow companies to work in previously unreachable locations. It will also make working on-the-go much faster and more reliable.
As a result of all this, business processes will become more efficient – as a simple example, any process that relies on fast video streaming could be transformed. New opportunities to drive revenue, increase innovation, and connect with people will abound. For example, simple mobile devices will be able to do more with virtual reality and augmented reality, which could in itself bring new business prospects.
Clearly, 5G will benefit businesses in many ways. But in order to reap these benefits, business leaders will have to:
1. Create a 5G strategy
For me, everything starts with your overarching business strategy. What are your current organisational aims, and how could advanced networking help you achieve those aims? Broadly speaking this strategy step will involve:
2. Consider IT systems and security
Most organisations hoping to benefit from 5G will have to take the opportunity to overhaul their IT systems. Local infrastructure will need to quickly scale its ability to communicate with wireless or remote devices in order to reap the full benefits. And because data will grow at an accelerated pace, you’ll need to think about how your systems will cope with an increase in data. (Not to mention, how will you glean valuable insights from that data?) In addition, security implications – particularly in relation to remote devices – should be addressed at the earliest opportunity.
3. Educate people
The possibilities that 5G brings must be understood at every level of the organisation, from the leadership team to frontline employees. Your people need to understand what 5G is, how it can support business goals, and how it can enhance collaboration and communication. With the right education, teams can be more alert to the ways 5G can positively impact the business.
Whether your business will be impacted by 5G in one year or five years, you can be sure change is coming. The best piece of advice I can give to any business leader is not just to think about 5G technology and what it can do today, but to consider the new possibilities it might bring in future.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.