5G might not be available in the UK yet, but it is just around the corner. For example, in October, EE launched its first live 5G trial in the UK, Vodafone recently announced 5G trials in seven UK cities starting at the end of this year and 3 have just announced updates on their £2bn investment. If your business hasn’t been paying attention yet, now is the time.
The latest generation of mobile cellular networks, 5G will mean lower latency, higher data rates, and better reliability for mobile communications. This means networks will be able to support richer and more sophisticated applications – including those relying on video and augmented reality, greater numbers of devices (crucial in Internet of Things (IoT) contexts), and retain reliability even while users are on the move or in remote locations.
But what does this mean for your business?
The connected workforce becomes a reality
5G will likely have the most powerful impact in terms of remote and mobile working.
Remote field operatives in traditional ‘blue collar’ sectors such as construction, energy and utilities, transport and logistics, are already often equipped with smartphones, tablets or ruggedised mobile devices to support their mobile working. This might be simply to receive instructions and give feedback to a centralised office – increasingly, it involves more sophisticated applications for managing tasks and even giving instructions and guidance on the move. 5G will enable those applications to become far richer and more data-intensive – and those workers to be more productive and less reliant on regular visits back to the office.
In more corporate ‘white collar’ environments the same benefits will be felt. Mobile workers who currently rely on WiFi hotspots or 4G mobile broadband to work whilst travelling or from home will instead be able to connect to their enterprise accounts and applications using general mobile cellular networks. As 5G matures, augmented reality and even hologram applications will make virtual meetings more immersive and engaging then ever before. Imagine a worker sitting on a train, using a contact lens to participate in a virtual meeting whereby their colleagues appear as avatars. This may not be far off.
No matter what sector businesses operate in, the implications for their IT and datacentre environments will be very similar. Hybrid networks, which combine on-premise and cloud-based elements, are already the norm for enterprise IT, and 5G will form a key part of this. Such networks will become more available, more reliable and in a sense more intelligent due to being agnostic of the underlying connectivity at the safe outlying boundaries of the network - the ‘edge’. Essentially the network edge can be pushed further out towards the user, which creates a distributed environment, with localised connected compute and storage in mini islands of the cloud.
In turn, this means that enterprises will have less and less reliance on traditional datacentre environments. Ultimately, 5G will reach the equivalent of an on-site LAN connection in terms of speed, reliability and security, which means that increasingly critical applications will be pushed further out into the network and closer to the ender user, simply because the network is more reliable and more trusted. The implications of this from a performance and availability perspective are really powerful.
A productivity game changer
5G is the route to more productive mobile working, greater collaboration both nationally and internationally, more immersive working experiences and even greater automation. It could have a transformative impact in a whole range of sectors. Is your business starting to get ready?
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