Even if 5G isn’t the stuff of stellar cocktail conversation for most civilians that hasn’t discouraged the cool-aid drinkers in our industry to make it the dominant topic for the last several years.
Call it hype, or the emperor’s new clothes, 5G is most definitely “a thing” and one that will have enormous implications in just about every business in every sector and industry – or at least the ones that hope to thrive or even survive in digital era. At the same time, it’s critical to understand that 5G is not the equivalent of say, the iPhone – one day it wasn’t there, and the next it was. 5G, like any evolution, it will start small and scale exponentially as demand grows and the ecosystems it seeks to create and serve are born.
Most importantly, and as it relates to the people within the enterprise, it represents a real departure from previous Gs in some very specific ways. To contrast the way it is spoken of in public, and we’ve seen this particularity with the in the opening salvos to the 5G arms race between Verizon and AT&T, it really isn’t about speed and latency. Yes these are features of 5G, but much more importantly it’s about reliability, and the opportunity for carriers to attach real guarantees to the service they provide, be they Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) or most tellingly, the category called Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication that will serve an estimated 20 Billion IoT devices by 2023.
Reliability moves the carrier away from simply selling SIM cards to selling some that is both core and essential to the enterprise, but also strategic competitively. Those companies that can operate with zero downtime and reliably lightning fast connections for massive amount of data will be the winners of the day. The companies that are part of the digital transformation, those dependent on the AI and machine learning platforms that will deliver automation at massive scale, or the enormously demanding applications for 8K video (AR/VR) are the ones who will feel 5G most powerfully. In this paradigm the enterprises that can do what they do without missing a beat will be at an enormous competitive advantage.
To date however, as cool as 4G might have been, it was never going to be better than what is euphemistically referred to as Best Effort; the defining feature of mobile to date – a lowest common denominator service that has hamstrung the mobile industry and slowed economic development across the board.
With 5G, and all of its promise to deliver Gigabit broadband and next undetectable latency even for the most capacity sensitive operations, the most important thing about 5G, and why it isn’t hype is that it be able to at last support an increasingly mission critical world. The impact of this on the enterprise and the work force in general will be to operate and scale at speeds that are unthinkable today. Without all of the puzzle pieces that 5G requires, and the kinds of technologies that will help ensure your remote surgery doesn’t go terribly wrong, or your driverless car doesn’t send you over a cliff it couldn’t see, 5G will be the stuff of dreams. Most excitingly however, though in it’s infancy today, these 5G only applications will soon be very much a reality and one with radical implications as we move toward our future Internet of Action. Inherently disruptive, it will create new business ecosystems to support unique and evolving demands that touch quite literally every industry sector and market segment.
Internally in the enterprise, traditional go-to-market cycles will accelerate, mobile operator relationships with enterprise, government and small business will become more strategic, networks will become more efficient, resource allocation more logical and both current and future investments in capacity will show dramatically greater return, and as Martha Steward would say, that’s a good thing.