The big buzzword nowadays in IT is 5G. Many companies are rushing pell-mell to tell everyone how much better their technologies will work under 5G. However, a lot of this chatter is smoke and mirrors.
Part of the chatter that is not heard so much is that 5G is a migration, not an epoch-changing event driving major strategic change. True enough, it will have an effect, but there are other IT issues far more worthy of deep consideration.
There are a lot of other things that need to happen before 5G becomes a reality and universally accepted.
It’s not true in all countries, but Government interference in spectrum auctions with the sole purpose of raising lots of money needs to be resolved. A second hurdle is that significantly expensive upgrades to cellular and corporate networks are needed. That will take time and will control the pace of the roll-out. Finally, there need to be consumer devices that support 5G. Right now, they are few and far between.
A final hurdle is that of consumer pricing. There is a fine line between recouping the investment and killing the golden goose. Consumer pricing is key to take-up. It seems likely that 5G will be seen more in commercial enterprises before it becomes a public service. However, having said that, Vodaphone launched a 5G service in Manchester Airport in the UK this year and are extending it to a railway station in Birmingham.
At this stage, it is purely a service to download Television shows from Now TV since there are no devices available for consumers to use.
What does the average business need to consider when evaluating a move to 5G?
The 5G rollout is likely to take place in major metropolitan areas first, followed at a later stage by a progressive roll-out to other areas. If your business needs 5G connectivity outside the premises but is not in such an area, you can comfortably watch and wait.
5G will benefit only some businesses. The average accounting practice will not see any immediate benefit, but manufacturing industries embracing the Internet of Things will. Their ability to swiftly process the enormous amounts of data generated by the IoT devices will be enhanced by using a 5G connection to the corporate network.
Organisations need to look at their corporate IT strategies. It is often the case that the truly strategic and transformative changes that the business really needs are left on the shelf while the IT department fights fires and implements the flavour of the month technologies demanded by Executive management after a visit to the 19th Hole.
The real transformative issues being addressed by IT include cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence and machine and deep learning. Quantum computing will also make a major impact on the IT environment over the next few years. These are the things that will truly change IT and business. In comparison, 5G is just a migration. In particular, they need to assess the costs and benefits of 5G versus high-speed broadband.
Corporate IT strategy needs to address this.
A major issue that is often received is that of skills shortages. Companies are currently addressing this by skilling up existing staff. They also mentioned that they are concerned about the security requirements of 5G networks and the ability to existing security environments to cope.
As always, cost rears its ugly head. The high costs of investment are a significant barrier likely to lead businesses to avoid or withdraw from implementing a 5G environment, at least for the time being.
However, there’s no reason why these barriers cannot be overcome by creating an applicable corporate IT strategy.
There is no doubt that business needs to be aware of 5G and its potential impact on business processes. IT, in particular, needs to carefully consider whether adopting a 5G strategy at this time will be of benefit to the business and make a positive return on investment. That will depend on the nature of the business.
Even if it is just a migration from 4G, 5G must be seen as part of corporate strategy and planned for accordingly.