The Reality of 5G is Catching up to the Promise

BrandPost By Pete Bartolik
Nov 16, 2021

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Credit: iStock

You can readily find 5G wireless phones and increasingly find yourself within 5G carrier networks, but it’s a bit tougher to spot the transformational impact of fifth-generation wireless. Although a majority of consumers in a recent survey indicated awareness of the enhanced capabilities of 5G over 4G/LTE services, “expectations based on their current understanding of an experience with 5G capabilities are moving at a slow pace,” the 451 Alliance report says.

There are several key messages spurring consumer interest in 5G, including faster downloads, better video streaming, and greater mobility. But they barely scratch the surface of the business potential of the wireless technology, according to a group of IT practitioners and influencers. This report highlights the greatest promise 5G holds for companies and vertical industries, in both the near and long term.

Some point to the vast increase in remote work since early 2020 as a likely accelerator of 5G adoption. “Millions of workers, content creators, and consumers have made it clear that this shift to persistent mobility is not going away,” says Scott Schober, president/CEO Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. (@ScottBVS).

“5G networks finally deliver on promises made decades ago by allowing for true telepresence that doesn’t suffer from excessive power requirements, latency, and bandwidth issues that previous wireless networks couldn’t overcome,” says Schober. That’s “transformative to working relationships and productivity and a worthy proxy to actually being in the same room with that person.”

New deployments and services

Tech influencer Elitsa Krumova (@Eli_Krumova) predicts that “5G technology will influence every industry by allowing new deployment models and making possible the delivery of new services. The biggest impact will be felt in the areas of healthcare, energy, and manufacturing, where we will see ‘smart factories,’ as well as in the automotive industry and mobility, media and entertainment, education, logistics, agriculture, and others.”

Although that’s all good news, wireless analyst Jeff Kagan (@jeffkagan) cautions that “there will also be plenty of frustration when nonwireless companies stumble around trying to figure out the best way to use this technology.” He recalls that the auto industry used 2G services to offer in-car communications, but when 2G was shut down, so were those services. “The same thing is happening all over again as we get ready to shut down 3G,” he says. “The same carmakers that should have learned this lesson with the 2G shutdown are getting caught with their pants down around their ankles once again with the 3G shutdown.” Despite the likelihood of mistakes and potholes along the way, he adds, “in the long term, 5G wireless will be the important technology that will change every industry over the next decade.”

Disruptions impact every major technology shift but also lead to new advances. “Whenever there’s an upgrade to networking technology that improves the reliability, performance, and scale of connectivity, there’s ground for new innovation and experiences to pursue—and disruption for companies that lag too far behind,” says Isaac Sacolick, president of StarCIO and digital transformation leader (@nyike). “Smart cities, telehealth, autonomous vehicles, and AR/VR applications that connect the physical and digital worlds have the greatest opportunities to leverage the intersection of 5G, IoT, and AI technologies.”

There’s a reason the panel of influencers is mainly positive about the impact of 5G. “Because of very high connection speeds and very low latency, 5G’s greatest promise is the ability to develop and deploy innovative new applications that were previously impractical, if not impossible,” says cybersecurity consultant Dave Hatter (@DaveHatter), pointing to the low latency required for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) networks that will be used in autonomous vehicles.

Advantages of lightning-fast responsiveness

The ability to scale speed across the enterprise will upgrade security efficiency, says Frank Cutitta, CEO and founder of HealthTech Decisions Lab (@fcutitta). Beyond that, the lightning-fast responsiveness and reach that 5G offers makes it more feasible to deploy remote processes, he notes. “For example, it will arguably revolutionize safe remote imaging and surgery in healthcare as well as adding a totally new dimension to scaling robotics in manufacturing.”

It’s also going to make for a better customer experience, says Gene DeLibero, chief strategy officer and head of Martech Consulting at Geekhive (@GeneDeLibero). “Augmented and virtual reality experiences will become tools for businesses to drive engagement and showcase products,” he predicts. “Longer-term benefits include improved edge computing for the mobile workforce and practical IoT capabilities for many verticals, including retail, healthcare, and hospitality.”

Will Kelly, a Product and content marketing manager focused on DevOps and the cloud (@willkelly), says he hopes 5G can renew the promise of enterprise mobility that has been eclipsed by the cloud. “In the near term, verticals such as healthcare and the public sector are going to benefit from faster connection speeds and lower latency for users who need to access mission-critical or emergency services apps,” he says. “In the long term, 5G will fundamentally transform mobile carrier networks, especially when it comes to capacity, with many positive impacts on work-from-home and work-from-anywhere use cases.”

Mobile and real-time intersection

With 5G, says Brent Kirkpatrick, founder of Intrepid Net Computing (@DrBKirkpatrick), “we can hope to run a mobile cloud, a mobile sensor network, a mobile pay station, and other mobile vendors. We will see the use of real-time solutions for business applications. In the long term, the margin to be won is at the intersection of mobile and real time.”

In the short term, real benefits are already available, points out Ken Urquhart, global vice president, 5G Strategy, with Zscaler. “Today you can take advantage of 5G’s high wireless speeds to stream many types of high-definition content to your customers, free of stuttering and buffering. 5G/edge compute rolling out over the next few months turns that one-way conversation into a two-way real-time conversation.”

Farther out, “you may find that a majority of your customers is digital devices … and not humans,” he adds. “And don’t forget zero-trust security. A lot of the magic of 5G requires your traffic to cross multiple networks dynamically. When you can’t be sure about the security of all those networks, zero trust is your friend.”

So, although the promises in the early days of 5G may have outpaced reality, the increasing footprint of 5G is finally catching up. Where we go from here is limited only by the ability of businesses to put it to use.

Click here to learn more about the potential of 5G.