5G is not here yet but TNC is already seeing its impact on market conditions and a likely reason for some to upgrade devices. However, 5G is much, much more than just a mobile development. Whilst it is true that 5G, like 4G before it, will allow users to do more with their mobile devices and increase the throughput and speed of their interactions, in reality this technology goes far beyond mobile devices.
5G as a technology will span a far greater range of devices and services than simply the phone in your pocket. Smart cities, remote medical procedures/consultations, autonomous vehicles, AR/VR, IoT are all currently positioned as being beneficiaries of 5G coverage but there will certainly be others that are as yet unknown, or the pipe dream of entrepreneurs. Indeed, it is the very potential of ubiquitous, ultra-high speed and ultra-low latency wireless connectivity that could be the basis of a revolution not only just in comms but also in facilitating significant changes across our society. Looking today at the use of mobile networks and how they have changed life may give an indication of how important 5G is going to be over the next decade.
TNC has discussed the potential for 5G to replace fixed line WAN access and certainly the initial consumer launches of 5G in the US have effectively offered this as the first service, effectively replacing wired broadband access. 5G speeds on handsets will also offer a new dimension in speed but beyond these we wait to see what extraordinary use cases develop. Indeed one must also consider what the business case for organisations will be if you have to pay extra to access/use 5G. What can you do with a 5G enabled device that you cannot do today on 4G? Until those “extraordinary” uses exist this may limit who pays extra to have 5G.
5G is being launched imminently in the UK with EE on 30th May and Vodafone on 3rd July. No doubt other operators will not want to be too far behind, having previously had EE jump the gun on 4G. Whether this means summer or later in the year is unclear and the extent of these initial launches' coverage is likely to be limited to begin with.
TNC expects 5G to initially attract a premium rental cost – maybe an additional £5-£10 per month line rental charge. This is the most obvious commercial impact for organisations to consider but this is not the sole consideration. New mobile devices with 5G chipsets will also be required to access 5G signals. In addition, the ease at which users can consume data due to the high-speed capabilities of 5G is perhaps the more worrying aspect. This is not solely a user-influenced metric, such as a decision to download some HD video content, but there is also the behaviour of devices and their apps when presented with significant
bandwidth (e.g. will your devices' email app fully sync in the background and download every attachment whether wanted or not?). Users may therefore need to buy more data.
We saw a similar impact to data consumption with the introduction of 4G and features such as Wi-Fi assist. With some contracts the overage costs can be onerous and a substantial increase in data consumption could leads to hundreds of pounds of additional cost per errant user per month if data bundles/overage cost is not addressed prior to use of 5G.
As such, organisations considering 5G should consider the full cost of ownership:
- Cost of hardware
- Cost of 5G access
- Cost of additional data consumption
- Policing and managing usage