Thought Leadership Series

Do We Really Need 5G? The Impact of 5G on Business

Overhead view of to business people on their phones

We are witnessing rapid disruptions in many industries. Organizations are developing and rolling out new business models that challenge the status quo. In connected services and automation industries, disruption is changing how devices communicate as new 5G networks are deployed and rolled out globally.

Disruptive impacts of 5G

5G offers several advantages over current mobile technologies such as higher speeds than 4G, lower-latency (able to process a very high volume of data messages with minimal delay) and lower power usage. These benefits can improve service delivery through enhanced visual experiences, faster response times, and improved device usage, while also enabling the creation of smaller mobile devices for new applications.

The rapid introduction of 5G

Countries such as the US, China, Australia and the UK are beginning to adopt 5G and building pilots in cities, businesses and other areas. South Korea was one of the first to demonstrate the use of 5G at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with networks provided by Korea Telecom (KT). Its applications included beaming live videos to giant screens on buses and even setting up deterrence devices to ward off wild boars. However, limitations remain for KT’s technology: its representative has observed problems of poor indoor coverage penetration. To mitigate the issue, four times as many base stations (antennae beaming the signal) are needed for 5G compared to LTE, the current generation of 4G technology.

Across the world, trials of 5G are accelerating as major service providers compete to launch infrastructure that supports this technology. Over the next few years, as handsets and other devices become 5G enabled, large countries are likely to take the reins from South Korea as leaders in 5G.

Use cases of 5G in different industries

Early use cases of 5G promise IoT developments for smart highways, autonomous vehicles, high bandwidth AR applications as well as IoT-enabled AI robots and sensors to enhance customer service delivery. Opportunities to innovate and improve on existing services in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, domestic transportation and many other verticals are only limited by imagination. However, the costs involved and other competing technologies make the business case for 5G not as clean cut as one might conceive.

The challenges of adopting 5G

The customer experience of Internet services and high quality media access will be affected by the ease of access to data speeds. Early trials show faster download speeds for 5G (1-10Gbps) compared to 4G, but this signal is more heavily affected by buildings, walls and distance. In comparison, today’s WiFi speeds are not as affected by physical barriers, with newer WiFi 6 (the next-generation wireless standard) already being deployed by many vendors.

                                               A Brief History of Wi-Fi Standards

wifi standards

Due to the challenges, businesses adopting 5G must invest in upgrading core infrastructure to cope with increased speeds, such as new fibres to base stations, more cell towers to cope with the reduced distance as well as more antennas. However, it’s the ability to obtain these speeds ‘inside’ a building that is the cause for debate. 5G offers significant speeds for IOT devices, phones and other terminals, but will require businesses to invest heavily in indoor 5G hotspots and backhaul (the intermediate wireless communication infrastructure that connects smaller networks with the backbone or the primary network) to ensure no blackspots. Current WiFi technologies actually provide speeds above what 5G networks can. The ultimate scenario would be for both networks to run side by side to achieve maximum technical coverage.  

5G and the Customer Experience

For CX managers and leaders, the discussion is around how to effectively monetize the 5G network. Trials of 5G in hotels are taking place to provide new guest experiences, but the debate of whether to invest in 5G or WiFi is still being decided. The answer is likely both, offering different service levels and experiences while relying on roaming standards to resolve any inconsistencies. The OpenRoaming Initiative (an evolution of Hotspot 2.0) seeks to bring industry players together to provide seamless roaming across 5G and WiFi 6.

It won’t be long before we see the rise of new WiFi and 5G networks providing hotels and retailers opportunities to further engage guests and enhance the customer experience that will set them apart from the laggards.

November 18, 2021

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