How could the arrival of 5G mobile connectivity impact how UK businesses operate?
The smartphone changed the way we work forever. Often referred to as a millennial’s Swiss army knife, mobile devices and their accompanying apps have enabled businesses to be more productive than ever before.
The arrival of 3G and the subsequent 4G cellular connectivity have meant that tasks previously restricted to the workplace can now be done on the move. But 2020 will see the game change again as the introduction of fifth generation (5G) wireless connectivity is expected. Just like its predecessors, 5G will open up even more possibilities to change how we work thanks to higher speeds, increased reliability and security, and lower latency.
The amount of data created worldwide continues to increase at an exponential rate and 5G is only going to add to this, so what will this mean to UK business?
Driving growth of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that describes any device that is connected to the internet. Smartphones, TVs and digital assistant systems like Alexa are the most obvious examples, however even the most traditional of items such as a toaster or mirror are increasingly becoming connected.
Today, devices will connect to the internet via either a mobile network, WiFi or a low powered wide area network (WAN). But as the number of internet-connected devices increases, a fast, smart and reliable network like 5G will be required to underpin all of these technologies.
Wearables, smartphones and any other smart devices that your business chooses to invest in will be able to continually and efficiently talk to each other over a 5G network. This will generate vast amounts of data that, if used effectively, will enable you to make better and quicker decisions to improve your overall operations.
The automotive industry, in particular, will see a number of opportunities to leverage the increased number of internet-connected mobile devices to increase driver safety and improve efficiencies. While manufacturing firms could see their entire supply chain become interconnected so that data can be used to improve a process and product quality.
Supporting the use of virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) has started to become mainstream in the last year due to the creation of more user-friendly headsets and lower hardware costs, so it’s highly likely that it will only be a matter of time before the technology becomes commonplace in the business arena.
Currently, the sophisticated mechanisms of VR require a considerable amount of data to be processed efficiently, meaning it usually works best when connected to fixed line internet solutions such as broadband or Ethernet.
However, the promise of 5G offering superfast speeds and improved reliability means that it should have more than enough bandwidth to be able to seamlessly support virtual reality being used remotely and without wires.
Let’s take an example of someone wanting to redecorate their home. The person will no doubt meet with an interior designer with a clear vision of how they want their living room to look. However, after using VR to explore the computer-generated version of their room with their ideas on display, the customer then realises that their chosen hue won’t actually work.
In a 5G-capable environment (whether that’s a home, café or even a shop floor), these experiences have the potential to significantly improve the customer service provided and boost the chance of a sale.
Making remote working even easier
Building an agile or remote workforce offers various advantages including improved staff morale, lower travel costs and increased productivity. But even though 4G is widely available across the majority of the UK today, it still has limitations and hinders those using bandwidth-hungry applications.
The arrival of a superfast 5G network will make it even easier for work to be conducted remotely and is likely to further break down barriers of those working inside and outside of the office.
Whether it’s enabling a salesperson at a conference to download a 4K video in seconds to win the attention of attendees, or needing to be able to conduct a last-minute video conference call with a prestigious client, 5G will help make it happen. It could literally become the difference between losing or winning business.
While the exact benefits and limitations of 5G connectivity aren’t fully clear and won’t be until the technology is properly tested towards the end of the decade, just like with 4G, 5G’s arrival is likely to further transform how we work and place a growing reliance on the small (or not so small) device in our pocket.