The promise of 5G network technologies for enabling wide scale digital transformation for the businesses of tomorrow cannot be understated. From turbocharging economic growth to powering future innovations, the world will grow increasingly reliant on this new generation of wireless connectivity as it continues to be rolled out. However, if reports from earlier this year of the negative misconceptions held by some are anything to go by, it seems that the mobile industry still has work to do in terms of educating people on what 5G is, what it will do and what it could enable us to achieve.
The risk of cumulative negative sentiment towards 5G is that it could cause governments and businesses alike to pull back on their investment in and adoption of the new technology – right at a crucial moment when excitement about its potential should be ramping up. Delays to the rollout of 5G could put a dampener on the kind of digital transformation that could boost the economic recovery for thousands of businesses both in the UK and around the world – from the biggest international corporations down to the smallest innovative startups. For this reason, the mobile industry must redouble its efforts to tackle misconceptions, challenge misinformation and encourage greater awareness and understanding of the enterprise benefits of 5G and how businesses can ensure they are well-placed to take advantage of them.
Assessing 5G awareness
A recent study conducted by Global Wireless Solutions sought to understand the sentiments of UK businesses when it came to 5G technology. The good news is that awareness of the future importance of 5G appears to be strong. While it is still in the early phase of rollout across the UK, more than half of respondents (56%) reported that 5G is already important to their organisation, with over a quarter (27%) identifying 5G as an important technology for the future of their business. A similar proportion (26%) of businesses are also excited to see a greater range of 5G offerings from their operator.
Despite this, it still seems that the provision of 5G applications and services is not considered a top mobile priority by most businesses at this stage, with just a fifth (20%) listing it in their top three for the coming twelve months. Compare this to more than twice as many who highlighted areas such as consistent voice call accessibility and quality (46%) and greater remote working connectivity (45%) as key priorities for their organisation. While awareness of 5G appears to be very high, the question is whether or not companies understand the full range of product and service offerings that 5G could unlock for their business activities – and, perhaps more importantly, whether they are starting to invest now in the new and updated tools and systems that will allow them to make the most of 5G’s potential in the future.
Building business understanding
Despite strong awareness of the importance of 5G, businesses often appear less clear on areas such as how 5G will be deployed and what it could actually achieve for their operations. This could be fuelling further uncertainty around why they really need 5G. Another key problem is that existing messaging around 5G benefits is often quite limited in scope. Often the focus is firmly on increased speed, which clashes with the fact that the overwhelming majority are often quite happy with the network speeds they already regularly receive. Faster speed is certainly a feature of 5G, but it is far from the only aspect – focusing on this at the expense of other upgrades undersells the true promise of 5G and makes the next-generation technology seem like a less significant transformation.
Beyond speed, the benefits of full 5G network connectivity include greater reliability, lower latency and higher rates of critical data-transfer, all of which will be vital for powering a more digitally interconnected future. More efficient utilisation of available spectrum and capacity will allow more people to do more things at the same time on the same network. Meanwhile, the collection and transmission of data will be revolutionised with 5G, as hardware, power and data storage capabilities are all enhanced and less cumbersome. This, for example, will enable billions of low-powered IoT devices to drive value through data right around the world.
Communicating enterprise benefits
Everything from autonomous vehicles and remote robotics, to real-time applications including the likes of VR and AR, will all be made possible through 5G. These are exciting prospects, but it’s also important to ensure that enhanced capabilities of 5G are being communicated in ways that businesses, employees and ultimately their customers will care about. For example, increased remote, wireless working for traditionally office-based workers has been one of the most significant shifts in response to the pandemic; as a result, a 5G-powered future could allow an even wider range of firms to operate remotely on a larger scale – more companies and more employees able to perform tasks and services as if they were in the office, in the field, or with a customer. 5G could enable engineers to perform maintenance tasks and address critical infrastructure issues as they happen in real-time from many miles away. It could give doctors the ability to go beyond hosting virtual consultations with patients via video link to actually performing remote surgeries and operations, all facilitated by real-time VR and remote-robotics applications.
Crucially, these enhanced capabilities translate into increased productivity and efficiency for businesses, delivering time and cost savings and positively impacting the bottom line. Explaining the range of capabilities and benefits for businesses and framing things in terms that will resonate will help to make them aware of the actual positive impact that 5G could deliver to their operations. This is a must for the mobile industry to encourage more firms to take a stake in accelerating the arrival of 5G. Without knowing what the new network is, what it could achieve or when firms are likely to see expected returns on their investments in terms of the advancements they expect, there is a risk that businesses will continue to consider the arrival of 5G as a ‘nice to have’ and not a necessity.