Justin Shields, Platforms and Solutions Director for Vodafone Business explains:
In my role at Vodafone Business, I’m fortunate enough to lead a team who are implementing some of the most exciting technologies on the planet. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the power of software-defined networks (SDN) and the Internet of Things (IoT) is still unfamiliar to many - although the recent IoT Barometer 2019 shows that this is changing, and fast.
Being the next generation of mobile technology, 5G is quickly becoming a familiar topic thanks to mobile devices being intrinsically linked to our personal lives. But 5G also represents the key to the smart cities of tomorrow; the connected ecosystems powered by almost instantaneous connectivity and the capability to give our customers more control than ever before.
5G is big news for business, and for the way that we all live and work.
Operating from the edge
To understand the full impact of 5G, it’s important to understand how it complements other technologies. When combined with multi-access edge computing (MEC), for example, it will enable us to push data processing and applications to the edge of a network.
This is exactly as it sounds, removing the need for information to travel to a central data centre and then back to a device. The combination of 5G and MEC allows applications to be closer to end users – promising the fastest ever and highest quality end-to-end service over a resilient mobile network.
For demanding technologies such as 4K video or augmented reality, the benefit of this reduced latency and capability is significant. Very quickly, the benefits of this proximity will become apparent.
Challenging tasks such as gas pipeline inspections, operating heavy machinery and even surgical operations can begin to be conducted remotely, improving safety and increasing efficiency. Use cases like these are already live in some cases, but the reliability and quality of 5G is the catalyst that will facilitate widespread adoption.
Internet of Everything - security, performance and flexibility
Alongside this shift in processes, the number of connected IoT devices continues to grow at speed. The increased capacity and reduced latency of 5G will make it possible to manage this tsunami of information, and will in turn present new opportunities for industries to digitalise.
Automation in factory environments is already driving demand for infrastructure monitoring, location and tracking use cases. And as I touched on earlier, connecting workers in hazardous environments can improve overall health, safety and productivity.
To maximise effectiveness, 5G mobile private networks (MPN) will optimise this infrastructure. These will provide dedicated coverage and performance in a way that Wi-Fi cannot, slicing the national network to enable private use with additional security benefits.
For instance, data on a MPN can be collected and managed onsite, with access restricted to approved devices only. This is possible without fragmenting national coverage, or limiting its expansion to profitable, populated areas only, as localised spectrum licenses might. 5G also has a big future in tomorrow’s software defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). It can complement, or in some cases replace, today’s legacy fixed links and allow locations to connect in days rather than months.
This improved quality of service and guaranteed private capacity will also allow some sensitive services to be routed over wireless, strengthening mission critical connectivity.
The fifth generation is here
At Vodafone, our commitment to 5G is clear – from our €90m investment in Europe’s 5G capital, Milan, to our ongoing spectrum bidding. We even connected the world's first 5G smartphone.
This means that our customers are already exploring the potential of 5G, supported by the experience, trials and partnerships from across our global footprint. Leveraging this knowledge, they can begin to define what 5G will mean for their business, and how Vodafone can help.
5G is the mobile network that will bring together digital technologies and demonstrate their value - moving them from theories to common practice, with tangible results for customers. That’s why I think that soon, everyone will be as excited as I am by the launch of the fifth generation of mobile network.