Avoid ‘5G washing’: 4 questions to ask your mobile provider or reseller

Accepting that 5G will likely be a complement rather than a replacement for 4G for some time will further help prevent unnecessary technology upgrades if the enterprise can already access the required performance from existing networksBill Menezes, Gartner

The potential performance benefits of 5G networks intrigue enterprises, but service providers have provided few granular details about the availability and full specifications of existing and planned 5G coverage, compatible endpoints and planned 5G corporate service plan structures, reports Gartner.

“This opacity raises the risk of enterprise buyers acquiring proprietary or early-stage 5G services at premium prices and with limited usability, or delaying inordinately their planning for 5G services to support roadmapped projects that might benefit from the technology,” writes Gartner analyst Bill Menezes.

In a recent research, Menezes lists basic questions corporate buyers should ask mobile service providers or resellers when evaluating or discussing the potential benefits of 5G-based services that are already available, or will emerge over the next four years.

These questions were based on the assumption that by next year, 7 per cent of communications service providers (CSPs) across the globe will have a commercially viable wireless 5G service, shown significant progress from 5G proofs of concept or started commercial network construction.

Question 1: ‘What will we need 5G for?’

Ask carriers to provide detailed specifications on the performance, throughput and endpoint capabilities offered by their 5G solutions, and the timescales to deliver these, advises Gartner

Avoid “5G washing”, which Gartner describes as non-5G-based services as part of a “5G ecosystem”. These may include services based on combinations of licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum bands.

“Accepting that 5G will likely be a complement rather than a replacement for 4G for some time will further help prevent unnecessary technology upgrades if the enterprise can already access the required performance from existing networks,” says Gartner.

Question 2: ‘Where and when can we get 5G?’

Gartner advises “lifting the uncertainty over 5G availability” by requiring mobile carriers to provide detailed terms and data on current and planned coverage, timelines for endpoint types and availability, and specifics about corporate plan structures.

Ask for terms similar to those offered for 4G services, such as “zero rating” of applications that will not count against monthly usage caps and limits on certain types of usage, such as using a 5G smartphone as a mobile hotspot.

Question 3: ‘What will 5G cost us?’

Avoid paying a premium for 5G services compared with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) by asking carriers to provide current and planned rate plans, plus their approach for applying available corporate discounts to 5G purchasing, says Gartner.

Enterprises should also compare available 4G performance with available 5G performance at needed locations.

Corporate buyers are advised to negotiate for 5G services to be included in standard 4G LTE corporate handheld device plans for no additional fee. This mirrors the approach that service providers generally took after launching 4G LTE service, says Gartner.

Question 4: 'How will 5G perform?'

Gartner says service providers have promoted 5G as a “game-changing” service suitable for high-risk use cases where network performance failures could prove costly or catastrophic.

Given this, and despite cellular service providers’ past reluctance to offer network SLAs, buyers should require SLAs with significant penalties for nonconformance, says Gartner.

The SLA should include key performance indicators on data download and upload speeds, end-to-end latency, jitter, network availability, or other metrics relevant to the required performance of applications that are reliant on a 5G connection.

Moreover, where service providers are proposing 5G to replace existing, mature technologies such as a wireless LAN, businesses should ask for SLAs relevant to the performance of specific applications that are currently on the WLAN, says Gartner.

5G features that will emerge over next 5 years

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