5 real-world reasons you really should care about 5G

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You’ve probably heard all the hype surrounding 5G at the moment – and some big numbers are grabbing a lot of attention. Those of us in the world of tech and telco certainly find them fascinating, but for the wider business community, what do 5G’s vital statistics really mean?

  • Download speeds of up to 1Gbps!
  • Up to 10x more capacity than 4G!
  • Data speeds up to 10x faster than 4G!
  • 5G supporting up to 1 million devices per 1km2!

These projections might sound sci-fi, pie-in-the-sky, but they’re not. We’ve tested standalone 5G and they’re realistic – see our 5G trials

The potential of the fifth-generation network is a little hard to grasp.

So in this blog, I want to show how 5G is set to be so much more than a numbers game. Let’s translate milliseconds and megabits into benefits we can all get excited about.
1. 5G can open up new business models for you

5G brings new ways to connect that can improve not only productivity and responsiveness but also competitiveness. Powering industrial AR, VR IoT sensors and robotics, 5G enables virtual connections and new ways to manage operations, stay ahead of the competition and generally never miss a beat.

If you’re a gamer you’ll call it lag. In business we experience latency as responsiveness. If you regularly suffer from slow network speeds, insufficient bandwidth or peak-traffic bottlenecks, you’ll know what I mean. 5G’s speed and capacity overcomes all these problems, cutting response time down to just 1 millisecond (compared to 50 milliseconds with 4G).

Forty-nine milliseconds might not sound like much, but in fact, those milliseconds will expand the Internet of Things (IoT) – and that’s a transformative opportunity for businesses in every sector.

5G-enabled IoT will allow real-time responsiveness, which opens-up huge opportunities for commercial use – from driverless vehicles, drones, artificial intelligence, robotics and remote-controlled machinery, and virtual and augmented reality. Businesses at the forefront of this tech can gain a strong competitive edge.

2. 5G will help your employees be more productive

The pace of business will pick up with 5G, making it possible for every aspect of your operations to move faster, delivering instant, wireless connection between all your machines and devices. It’ll feel like the first time connectivity is actually keeping up with business.

You’ve heard that with 5G, we’ll be able to download an entire HD film (yes, even Avengers Endgame) in seconds. But what does that mean for your business productivity? Well, hopefully it won’t mean Marvel movies at work, but it will mean waiting time becomes a thing of the past.

Getting hold of large files not only leaves us staring at our screens for minutes that feel like hours, but those minutes disrupt our flow for much longer. With blink-of-an-eye downloads, we’ll be able to get files and keep working without interruption, share entire media-rich projects on our phones, or stream video without buffering.

3. 5G will enable better customer service

5G’s low latency translates as business without disruption, allowing you to collaborate in real-time with your customers and react to requests instantly. And 5G’s high bandwidth will mean you’ll stay connected and responsive even in crowded areas.We all know the pain of a poor connection in a video conference. Meetings like these sap our time and make us look unprofessional – and at the moment there’s not much of a clear alternative. When those calls are with customers, prospects or investors, the stakes are even higher.With 5G we’ll be able to make and receive calls and use data without interrupting download speed; we’ll get clearer calls with less background noise; video conferencing will get slicker too, with high quality, pixellation-free images and less buffering.Connecting, sharing and engaging with our customers will become as easy and natural as face-to-face.

5G jargon-buster

  • Speed – how quickly you can download data
  • Latency – how quickly a signal gets from A to B
  • Bandwidth – the number of devices that can connect in a small area without loss of service

4. 5G will finally allow remote working to work properly

In the near future, 5G will offer faster speeds than you’ve experienced on the move before. You’ll be able to instantly respond to anyone, anywhere – whether you’re at home, the airport or on the commute, and access the benefits of bandwidth-hungry tech like AR and VR in new and exciting ways.

In the past few years employee demand for flexible and remote working has steadily grown into employee expectation. More and more businesses have developed policies and practices that allow people to work away from the office.

Remote working is rapidly becoming mainstream and, when technology allows it, communication with remote teams will feel seamless.

With 5G, businesses will have constant unbroken access to a fast, reliable internet connection. AR and VR technologies will take advantage of 5G’s added bandwidth and make remote-meeting participants feel as if they’re in the same room, making presentations more engaging and interactive.

The potential for holographic calls and 3D presentation is particularly exciting. By the end of the year, (???) Vodafone UK would have rolled out 5G to 19 key cities around the UK, including seven launch locations: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

5. 5G will help you make the best use of your biggest asset

Network slicing is how enterprise customers will be able to squeeze every drop of value out of 5G. It’s a way of dividing a single physical network connection into separate virtual ‘slices’ for specific services or channels – allocating the appropriate amount of resources to each slice.

For example, a network slice dedicated to IoT devices could provide high availability, high data rate and enhanced latency. A different network slice for ePOS transactions could offer high throughput, quick data and low latency.

This basically gives businesses control over own their own private 5G network, precisely set up according to its specific business needs. 5G will certainly have much greater capacity, but it will also use that space more intelligently, assigning only the resources necessary for a particular service or channel.

We’re in the early days of a revolution

Let’s be clear about expectations though: migration to 5G will be an evolution. Some features will be implemented on upgraded 4G networks in a process referred to as 4G Evolution (Evo).

5G devices are beginning to launch and will become mainstream by the end of 2019. By 2020-2021, 5G’s more sophisticated capabilities will appear. The ultra-low latency and reliability that supports massive IoT will start to roll out then. By 2025, we should see about 50 percent network coverage according to the GSMA.

I can count on one hand the number of times in my career I’ve said that a technology is truly game-changing. Along with IoT and SDN, 5G is one of them (game-changers come in threes it seems!). Because when it’s fully deployed, 5G will change the way we live and work.

By Scott Petty, Vodafone CTO
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