Introduction

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.   

Examples of
5G's capabilities:

Some of the really interesting examples already identified for 5G’s game-changing capabilities include:

Autonomous vehicles

Leveraging 5G’s low latency capability could be critical to enable the deployment of autonomous vehicles. In theory, 5G would allow much of the enormous compute capability required to be undertaken away from the vehicle but with communication fast enough to allow real time decision making such as collision avoidance

Drones

The low latency capability of 5G could have a similar impact on drones as on autonomous vehicles – enabling ultra-fast interaction between drones, and between drones and the ground to facilitate real time decision making and interaction

AR/VR

Some of the greatest buzz around 5G is the belief that it could really drive adoption of Augmented and/or Virtual Reality. There are a range of corporate applications being hyped in this space, such as providing AR overlays to an engineer looking at an engine and being able to see schematics and be directed straight to the part that needs replacing, or allowing customers to virtually try on clothes in a retail store

IoT and private 5G

There is a huge amount of buzz around the potential for IoT to really take off with the advent of widespread 5G coverage. However, this could happen much sooner in individual corporate environments such as HQ campuses and factories through deployment of a private 5G network. In essence, this is like another LAN solution or flooding an area with Wi-Fi but with the added advantages of 5G, including lower latency, greater penetration so fewer access points etc.

LAN replacement

As 5G coverage becomes more ubiquitous, and the ability to ring-fence bandwidth using network slicing comes into the market, there could be the opportunity to dispense with LAN and Wi-Fi solutions in certain environments, with end-user devices connected directly to the cellular network 

Implications for organisation
Leaders

So, what does this mean for those who lead, own and operate mobility strategy for leading organisations? In fact the implications are really significant:

  • Innovation will be driven across your organisation. The days when developing a mobility strategy meant deciding how many handsets and what platform are gone. It is highly likely that your next mobility strategy will mean engaging with a much broader group of stakeholders to understand the full range of potential use cases for mobility – whether that’s your colleagues in manufacturing who want to use 5G to enable IoT, your colleagues in marketing who want to deliver new revenue channels using AR/VR, or your colleagues in facilities who are wondering if your new head office needs a LAN, it’s highly likely you will have a much broader group of stakeholders dreaming up new use cases all the time
  • Use cases will be inbound from a whole ecosystem of external parties. At the same time that your colleagues are thinking of their own use cases, they and you will be hearing about more and more innovations from external parties about how they can deliver value using 5G. This could be your airtime provider, but it equally could be other partners and service providers who are leveraging 5G to provide value-added services
  • Building business cases will become critical. It is highly likely that anyone driving mobility strategy is going to spend a lot of the next 24-36 months really diving into business case development for a whole range of mobility applications. The obvious business case will be to enable 5G into the mobile phone fleet, but all the other innovations will all have complex business cases underpinning them, and evaluating these will be critical to ensure 5G delivers benefits not just costs 

Summary

In summary, TNC’s research shows that there will be a huge range of use cases for 5G, and the truth is that many of these are not yet known but will surely come. However, these use cases are likely to be different to the use cases that drove 3G and 4G adoption – it isn’t about what happens on your phone, but about enabling a whole range of new applications and capabilities to drive business change, productivity, and value.

As the UK’s leading vendor independent consultancy specialising in the implementation of 5G services, TNC is ideally placed to help you make the most of this wave of innovation – enabling you to maximise your benefits, minimise your costs, and mitigate your risks. Contact us today to see how TNC can help you win the 5G battle. 

Disclaimer

Other than matters relating to The Network Collective, this research is based on current public information that we consider reliable. Opinions expressed may change without notice and may differ from views set out in other documents created by The Network Collective. The above information is provided for informational purposes only and without any obligation, whether contractual or otherwise. No warranty or representation is made as to the correctness, completeness and accuracy of the information given or the assessments made.

This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.

No part of this material may be (i) copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or (ii) redistributed without the prior written consent of The Network Collective Limited © 2020

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