How 5G will benefit businesses

5G is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, with the UK recently taking strides to develop its network infrastructure. The technology is expected to be rolled out properly by 2020 and hit over one billion connections by 2025.

The fifth generation of mobile networks promises even faster download speeds, less lag and a more stable connection than existing 3 and 4G. But what does this mean for businesses, and how can they prepare for its arrival to get first-mover advantage?

The 5th Generation

The arrival of 5G won’t be defined by a single new technology or an immediate revolution, rather the potential of 5G will unlock the opportunity to develop more advanced technologies.

Improved speeds – estimated to be up to 20 times faster than 4G – and lower latency, plus a greater capacity offer exponential growth opportunities for businesses. In short, complex tasks will be performed quicker with fewer interruptions.

The good news for UK businesses is that, unlike with the previous 4G roll-out, the UK is set to be one of the first out of the starting blocks when it comes to 5G. However, one significant speedbump in the race to marketing 5G is the strict government processes required to give the green light on each stage of the network development.

5G isn’t simply waiting on a go-ahead signal to launch as it will involve major disruption, like the implementing of high-frequency antenna all over cities to carry waves.

This is not to mention the political storm raging between the US and the world’s leading telecommunications equipment manufacturer, Huawei. The US government has banned the use of Huawei technology in the development of its 5G network and urged other nations including Australia and Canada to follow suit.

The decision comes over fears using Chinese-owned technology could leave other nations open to espionage through its network.

While major network providers like EE and Vodafone have already begun rolling out 5G services in densely-populated areas, it’s unlikely businesses will be able to harness the potential for the next few years. When it does come though, the possibilities are huge, so be prepared.

Business impact

5G promises to change the landscape of what’s possible for modern businesses, and those able to adapt and adopt ahead of the competition will reap the rewards.

The most obvious and immediate benefit of 5G is the increased user-end speeds the network will be able to deliver. Lightning quick speeds of over 1Gbps will accommodate and improve daily working habits like remote working, file sharing and communication capabilities.

Instant and reliable connections will make remote working a real possibility for businesses, with more companies likely to adopt the approach thanks to effortless conference calls and consistent speeds wherever employees are working from.

Cutting-edge innovations like automation and AI are also set to benefit greatly from 5G enablement as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. 5G will provide the platform needed to truly drive IoT connectivity, allowing communications for up to a million devices per square kilometer.

The powerful network offers opportunities to transform traditional industries. For example, the agriculture sector can use sensors to detect and feed information in real time about fertilisation and moisture needs, enabling farmers to ensure the maximum yield from each crop, while driving cost savings.

Preparation is key

For successful businesses, the first step will be identifying key areas for investment. Those that simply dip their toes into multiple opportunities of 5G, rather than commit to delivering one strategy as best as possible will be the ones who miss out.

Businesses need to highlight the key drivers for growth and invest heavily in delivering the best product or service possible with the help of 5G networks.

While it’s important for relevant experts and teams to feed into the 5G strategy, consider appointing a 5G expert to spearhead your strategy. Drawing from the knowledge of someone who knows the possibilities and limitations of the technology means you’ll be able to deliver a refined product and maximise the potential of 5G without wasting spend.

Preparing for 5G doesn’t mean simply aligning your business plan, though. If your network infrastructure isn’t in place to cope with the demands of 5G, you’ll end up wasting time and budget.

Moving any existing physical infrastructure to a virtual network can provide the agility and flexibility to accommodate 5G, so make this a key consideration and invest in making the process as smooth as possible. 

A growing threat

The attributes making 5G such a valuable prospect are the very same that threaten to destabilise the network. Hosting millions of devices, the network is simply generating more entry points for attack.

Plus, with the potential of 5G to facilitate the growth of IoT – which not only connects a network to a device but also device to device – it means the potential damage of any breach may be more significant than before.

The online threat landscape is always changing and as 5G rolls out and begins to aid the development of new use cases, we’ll begin to see threats on a scale of which we’ve not experienced before.

For example, the connectivity provided by 5G will make autonomous vehicles and smart roads a reality, creating a new area of security threats.

However, those implementing security measures to protect private networks need to ensure they don’t compromise or disrupt the speed and efficiency that make 5G so appealing.

Zero trust and authentication tools are recommended for businesses looking to secure their network. Authentication software requires users to enter multiple pieces of information – often including a one-time code that can’t be reused – as an additional barrier to entry.

Similarly, zero trust models require all log-in attempts to be reviewed and approved based on pre-agreed rules or by an admin, to ensure the attempted user always has the right to the information they’re requesting.

These security tools are ideal as they provide substantial security without requiring users to change how they work or add huge amounts of time to their existing schedule.

The rewards on offer to those able to utilise and monetise 5G are large and within reach. Thankfully, businesses have the next few years to outline their blueprint to ensure they’re ready to act when the network is in full swing.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Craig Lodzinski, Chief Technologist for Data and Emerging Technologies at Softcat.

Last updated: 16th March, 2021

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