Evolution or revolution?

5G and the ambient technology it drives has the potential to be truly transformational. The obvious immediate impacts include higher speeds, low latencies, lower power consumption and greater reliability of mobile communication. The greater impact of 5G, however, comes through its role as an enabling technology, that is to say, it super-charges the impact of several existing and emerging technologies.

The global economic impact of 5G in new goods and services is forecast to reach $12 trillion by 2035i as the technology allows us to move from simply connecting people to information towards connecting people to everything.

What does it mean?

In the short term, augmented reality apps could proliferate on smartphones, shifting how we access and display information. In the medium term, the synergy of 5G with emerging industries, such as the IoT will, '...open up potentially new roles for intermediaries in the value chain, positioned downstream of network operators, offering to bundle and repackage connectivity for particular industries.' 5G will also prove a catalyst for connected healthcare, and virtual reality (VR) as a medium across the sector. Strategic reasons aside, considerable operational benefits exist, with security and operational advantages cited by 54 percent of executives as a key 5G benefitii.

For the full benefit of 5G, organisations should look to twin it with other capabilities, such as the edge, the cloud and machine learning, a version of Artificial Intelligence. To yield 5G's potential fully, real insight must be generated, rather than merely transmitting data at a greater speed and volumeiii. Since 5G impacts the utility of many other technologies, its impact on workplace design should also be considered, not least through VR meetings and other technologies that could boost and enhance remote working. Despite 41 percent of executives citing the alternative workforce trend as important, only 28 percent feel ready to address itiv. Ultimately, 5G could usher in the death of the non-productive work spacev. IT changes are likely to be required, too, since 5G networks could demand up to one hundred times more resources than the typical 4G networkvi.

Several leading 5G models are likely to emerge from China, which is forecast to account for half of all global 5G users in 2022, and 40 percent of 5G connections by 2025vii. Models, practices and ideas developed there could readily be imported into western markets, as could potentially sources of collaboration and competition. The impact on those unprepared for the raft of organisational and business model changes that 5G demands, could be terminal.


ii Source: Cap Gemini 2019

iii Source: strategy&, 2019

iv Source: Deloitte, 2019

v Source: CMS Wire, 2018

vi Source: Actual Tech, 2019

vii Source: SDX Central, 2019

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