Full Speed Ahead

Full Speed Ahead

Ultra-fast 5G networks will create many business benefits through increased wireless efficiency.

Businesses of all sizes now consider wireless integral to their operations and have made it the network of choice for employee and business connectivity. Mobile devices are now the primary means of Internet access, driving an 11,000 percent increase in the volume of wireless data traffic in the U.S. since 2010, according to Statistica.

As usage continues to grow, wireless infrastructure will have to grow along with it to meet demand. Next-generation 5G networks promise to accommodate that growth by enabling services at significantly faster speeds, expanded capacity and stronger coverage than previously possible. 5G networks can be up to 100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections, with speeds measured in gigabits, not megabits, per second. For reference, at 1Gbps, a full-length feature movie can be downloaded in about 10 seconds.

5G networks will enable a wide range of Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities and are expected to facilitate advances in autonomous vehicles, smart factories, robotics and other data-intensive tasks that require low latency. Accenture analysts predict 5G will provide a $600 billion boost to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and create 3 million new American jobs.

“5G is a crucial factor in creating new and agile business models across industries that are predicated on wireless,” said Sanjay Dhar, managing director, Accenture Strategy, Communications, Media & Technology. “The economic benefit we isolated can only be achieved with robust mobile ecosystems that quickly usher in the age of 5G.”

Coming Soon

The major carriers will begin to introduce 5G services this year. Initially, 5G networks will be built on top of 4G ones, and 5G-equipped smartphones will be equipped with modems for both standards. However, two recent developments are accelerating efforts to have standalone 5G networks in widespread deployment within a couple of years.

In June 2018, the international group that governs cellular standards — the 3GPP — finalized the standalone (SA) version of the 5G New Radio (NR) specification. The specification supports the development of end-to-end 5G network architectures and opens the door for thecommercializationof 5G services.

A March 2018 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should accelerate 5G growth by easing rules affecting a key element of wireless infrastructure deployment. Specifically, the rule removed some restrictions on the deployment of the small cell towers that are essential for 5G networks.

Small cells are shoebox-sized “mini towers” that can be installed on light poles and other city infrastructure, allowing wireless operators to increase network density in preparation for 5G services. The FCC ruling exempts small cells from certain federal historic and environmental reviews, which is expected to reduce timelines for 5G network development.

“Winning the global race to 5G and ensuring that more Americans get access to more broadband is a top priority,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.  “5G won’t just mean faster broadband, it will support the next wave of American entrepreneurship and innovation — everything from smart cities to remote surgery to the Internet of Things.”

Have a Slice

Besides the obvious ability to move more data with more speed and less latency, 5G presents a number of potential business benefits. Network slicing is one of the more enticing possibilities. The expanded capacity of 5G will allow organizations to “slice” their physical network into multiple virtual networks dedicated fordifferent use cases. Each network slice is then assigned a unique set of resources optimized for the connectivity, speed and capacity requirements of that application.

5G will also help companies relieve network congestion and reduce IoT latency with multi-access edge computing (MEC), which moves computing resources to the network’s edge in closer proximity to both users and data sources. This eliminates the latency required when sending all data back and forth to far-flung cloud data centers — instead, data is analyzed, processed and stored at the edge.

The most noticeable benefit for most organizations will be faster data speeds that allow anytime-anywhere access from the office, the home or while mobile. As such, 5G will remove many of the technical issues that have limited remote working. Remote collaboration technologies such as web conferences and video conferencingwill be significantly better with a fast, reliable Internet connection. Analysts expect 5G to drive growth in augmented reality and virtual reality applications within conferencing platforms.

“5G will enable a fully mobile and connected society — unleashing human and technological possibility, and fueling business and financial opportunity,” Asha Keddy, vice president of Intel’s Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group, wrote in an online editorial. “It will erode the boundaries between the physical and the digital to deliver personalized experiences and valuable services that will test the limits of our collective imaginations. 5G will take the industry beyond communications, bringing together wireless, computing and the cloud to create a unified technological foundation and a scalable global marketplace.”