5G is one of the most hyped technologies of recent times, so let’s start with a quote that fully captures that hype about just how massive 5G is going to be: “5G is the fundamental platform for the fourth industrial revolution and will become an integral part of societies and civil infrastructures, just like roads, energy and transportation.”
So, if 5G really is going to be massive, there must be loads of use cases, right? Well, sort of, but the reality is much more complicated.
Since the advent of mobile telephony, back even in the times of 1G, mobility services have been dominated by the phone in a user’s hand. Of course, that was originally all about voice, but with 3G and particularly with 4G, it became much more about data. However, it was fundamentally about a person using a device to do something that justified the cost of the handset and airtime.
If we simply project this paradigm forwards, there is very little to get excited about with 5G at the present time. Sure it can allow much faster downloads than 4G, but it is hard to see exactly what use cases that enables particularly in a corporate environment. TNC’s research shows that average corporate data usage is far below consumer usage and the main reason for this difference is video – video is the real data driver but there are far fewer reasons to consume video on a corporate device than consumers bingeing on iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube. In fact, the most interesting near-term capability 5G can provide for corporate users is the ability for the network to handle many more calls simultaneously, which should mean better coverage, fewer dropped calls etc.
However, the barriers to adopting 5G are significant for many companies. Of course, coverage is limited at the moment so few users would gain a real benefit from 5G even if it were adopted today. But it is also important to note that there are very few handsets currently available, and these tend to be expensive. Combine this with the longer time periods over which most organisations are sweating handsets, and the reality that most organisations don’t buy the absolute latest models (for example, TNC’s research shows that the average organisation purchases iPhones which are 2-3 models older than the latest), and it seems likely that most corporates will take some time before they can deploy the handsets to enable them to broadly adopt 5G.
In summary therefore, there is little reason and not much interest for companies to migrate their mobile estates to 5G any time soon. It is expensive to do, with little obvious benefit.
So, why are people getting so excited about 5G? The short answer is that what makes 5G so exciting is less about changing what happens to the phone in your hand, and more about enabling mobility to transform the world away from our phones.