Home5G5G is here – businesses should be ready to take advantage of it (Reader Forum)

5G is here – businesses should be ready to take advantage of it (Reader Forum)

As businesses in the UK look to recover from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 5G and advanced network technologies will become more important to businesses than ever. Recent figures from Vodafone suggest 5G could boost output in the UK by £150 billion; a recent survey by Qualcomm of over 3,500 business decision makers found 85 percent expect 5G to make UK companies more competitive globally. 

However, with steps being taken to make the promise of truly widespread 5G a reality increasing by the day, how prepared are businesses to capitalize on the opportunities 5G present? With significant resources and capital already invested by government bodies and other stakeholders in the rollout, maximising 5G’s positive impact on UK businesses should be a priority.

Carter – 5G as part of post-Covid enterprise recovery

If the government is intent on advancing its Help to Grow initiatives to promote business resilience post-pandemic, 5G technology should form a core part of this plan. It will, after all, bring numerous benefits to businesses and spark innovations that change their daily operations.

There are two ways businesses can prepare for the reality of widespread 5G: first taking advantage of the technology that 5G can enable in the here and now, and second showing a willingness to invest in 5G technology that will unlock greater opportunities in the future.

Benefiting from technology that 5G already enables

We must learn from the tangible examples of businesses maximising 5G’s impact that already exist. Of course, this varies from sector to sector but there are some clear leaders in IoT, manufacturing, and automation that businesses can learn from. To take one example: airports, businesses with large numbers of passengers, workers, commercial activities as well as security and safety needs. 

Many airport operators have begun to embrace private 5G networks to help manage and enhance all things related to the customer journey and operations; for example, improving passenger health and safety measures and ensuring a more touchless and efficient travel experience with initiatives including digital travel passes, health check screening, security checkpoints and airport concessions. 

These developments will be crucial as we move into a new era of post-pandemic travel and beyond. Airports around the world from Brussels to Cologne to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have started to roll out new use cases that will flourish under 5G, and this trend is set to accelerate over the coming decade. 

The same transformative impact can also already be seen in the manufacturing space where 5G is expected to free entire operations from a wired connection. When comparing a 5G automated factory with other similar operations that aren’t yet automated, output per employee has been found to improve by 120 percent, and manual material handling reduced by 65 percent.  

Wireless networks can support intelligent manufacturing processes and automated control across both machinery and monitors – this can occur both within factories and provide real time data across entire supply chains.

In general, IoT advances energized by 5G capabilities will bring further improvements in operational efficiency at manufacturing plants, airports, and other commercial operations as well as the potential for further new revenue streams with improved, more immersive data related to the business process or customer journey – think, for example, inventory and supply chain management or even personalised advertising.  

Whether this is achieved by deploying a standalone network or via ‘slicing’ from an operator’s existing 5G network, opportunities will continue to grow as operators and network vendors develop their 5G products and services, and as the UK government considers spectrum allocation for enterprises other than the traditional mobile network operators.

Investing in technology that 5G could unlock

As for the future, the important thing for businesses is to retain a willingness to invest in 5G for tomorrow. Whilst a variety of 5G enabled technology already exists for businesses to take advantage of, many other innovations remain unknown to us, or are purely futuristic. 

In the meantime, organisations need to invest in advanced network technology, so they are ready to maximise innovations as they arise.  We have already seen this play out as the pandemic forced a need for many services to be moved online and companies were forced to adapt; and through this enforced change came major steps forward in home working capacity, video conferencing, telehealth, and other areas

This willingness to invest in the sometimes-unknown impact of innovative technology has been proven to yield benefits; think ARPANET or the world wide web, GPS, the original iPhone, electric cars. Investing in technology can often involve risk due to its hard-to-grasp potential. Yet so often it ultimately yields a positive, productive impact on society and the business willing to harness it. Further, the benefits of this mindset are already being realised by the innovations 5G is showing are possible. 

Over the past year, a government-backed proof of concept scheme called Project Vista has been developing a 5G-enhanced in-stadia viewing experience for sports and music fans. It’s about using 5G broadcast technology (FeMBMS) to enable multiscreen viewing via mobile devices for attendees of large-scale events in stadiums and other venues. 

The goal is to demonstrate how 5G broadcast can result in new service opportunities and be a cost-effective solution to today’s capacity and connectivity constraints in areas or at events with large concentrations of users. Whilst this project is primarily focused on proving the concept, the response from consumer surveys conducted was overwhelmingly positive: over a third of sports and music fans who regularly attend live events say they would be interested in using an app with the features that can be enabled by 5G FeMBMS technology.

Illustrating to consumers and businesses what 5G makes possible via investment in projects that stretch the technical capacity of the technology can and will yield significant commercial gains. Overall, it’s about developing a solid understanding of the technology’s potential and fostering a willingness to invest in the products and services it can deliver.

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