At the recent 5G North America and Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, the fanfare about 5G was not surprising. However, what continues to surpass expectations is the level of eagerness for it among enterprises, the breadth of potential use cases, and the accelerated timelines for its arrival.
As I heard various potential applications for 5G and answered audience questions alongside leaders from companies such as Ericsson, Intel, and Telit during our panel event, it was impossible not to get excited. I have a few key takeaways from the event, all of which was underlined by one simple fact: 5G’s potential impact is seemingly limitless.
5G Will Arrive Sooner Than Expected
It is now clear that while full 5G deployments will take some time, initial launches are poised to begin sooner than anticipated.
During the rollout of 3G and 4G, the deadlines for key standards were pushed later and later throughout the process. For 5G, the standards have actually been delivered ahead of schedule. Nothing is set in stone, but as of now, I’m optimistic that 5G will arrive ahead of schedule, not behind.
5G is at the Top of Enterprise Wish Lists
When Cradlepoint first launched 4G solutions, enterprises needed convincing that 4G could be enterprise-grade and serve as a legitimate WAN source for failover and even primary connectivity. Soon they recognized the benefits of wireless WAN, such as network architecture that is unconstrained by wires.
Even at a site typically considered a “fixed location,” such as a branch retail store, flexibility is highly valued. For instance, if the wiring closet has to be moved due to a merchandising refresh, 4G enables an easy change, as opposed to relying on a service provider to move wired lines.
Now that cellular-based wireless WAN has proven its reliability in a wide range of branch, mobile, and IoT use cases, the conversation has changed. Having seen the freedom of time and space that 4G provides, enterprises are proactively seeking information about 5G. They are asking, “When can we have it?”
Even with its many benefits, 4G has certain limitations — limitations that will no longer exist with 5G. For instance, users will enjoy generally 10 or more times more bandwidth and 10 times less latency. Think of it as “wireless fiber,” and your imagination can begin to run wild. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
5G Enterprise Use Cases are Plentiful & Practical
The performance of 4G LTE has birthed millions of applications and experiences that have changed the world as we know it. The doorway to possibilities has been opened inch by inch, but 5G will kick that door wide open.
Enterprises are catching the 5G vision and developing impressive ideas for how to leverage the benefits in day-to-day business and life.
Evolution of Kiosks & Remote Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
The ability to rely on wireless WAN has been a game-changer for many companies. Retailers have extended their services beyond the four walls of traditional retail stores. For example, Redbox was one of the first to leverage 4G LTE to provide DVD, Blu-ray, and video game rentals via automated retail kiosks. And kiosks have exploded from there.
This trend toward flexible, low-cost retail is evolving into the trend of Remote Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Enterprises can provide specialized support anywhere, without paying for experts to set foot on-site. Telemedicine is an excellent use case, and it’s poised to improve even more with the extremely high responsiveness and low latency of 5G, which will enable a patient to don a glove that lets a doctor actually feel what the patient feels — remotely.
5G will remove the need for healthcare specialists to be on-site for telemedicine visits, and many other types of remote SME use cases can be thought of across every industry — making the model more economically scalable than ever before.
Multi-User, Ultra-HD Video Conferencing
The increasingly diverse, global, and mobile workforce is dispersed everywhere, which has spurred an explosion of collaboration platforms designed to improve efficiency. However, one increasingly necessary tool for a mobile a workforce is video conferencing, which works reasonably well in 4G but, in my opinion, isn’t widely used because it’s not an excellent user experience.
5G will transform multi-user, ultra-HD video conferencing into a viable and reliable tool for team collaboration — whether at the office, on the road, or in the comfort of your own home.
Many companies will be able to benefit from 5G’s impact on robotics, particularly in factories. The high responsiveness and low latency of 5G, instead of fiber lines, will enable robotics use cases that can easily and cost-effectively be moved, which is vital in a constantly changing production line on the factory floor.
Augmented & Virtual Reality
5G will also push forward what’s possible with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Elements of VR already are changing the way people engage with online retail, and 5G will accelerate the trend. How about public transportation? AR could be available for passengers to find restaurants and tourist attractions as they ride through a city.
Imagine a world in which first responders working in hazardous environments use AR-enabled helmets or visors to view floor maps and other key information.
The rapidly growing list of 5G use case ideas is yet another sign that 5G is coming soon — with the potential to radically change the way enterprises and their employees do their work.
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