With 5G adoption white hot, businesses find themselves at pivotal juncture (Reader Forum)

The number of media reports chronicling the rise in 5G adoption across both public and private sectors continues to grow

In March, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced the establishment of a cross-functional team tasked with speeding up the adoption of 5G and future wireless networking technologies “to ensure its forces can operate effectively anywhere.” Future Market Insights issued a report recently and wrote that the firm’s research found that “5G technology will play a crucial role in supporting governments and public organizations.” IDC predicts that by 2024, “wireless first” will be mainstream for wide area connectivity.

Meanwhile, as companies across the globe race to complete their digital transformations, demand for faster internet, which 5G delivers and greater capacity, is also on the rise. In March, Verizon published a survey of small and mid-sized business owners  found that 63% had “implemented new tools and technology to change their processes and the customer experience.”

No time to lose

Additionally, a little more than half of respondents said that they “added or upgraded their internet connection… to enable high-capacity activities such as cloud-based applications.”

What this means is that the window is closing for those enterprise leaders who have taken a wait-and-see approach toward 5G. From here on out, those who wait risk giving up a technological advantage to rivals. Already, organizations from a sweeping range of municipal services and business segments, have begun to develop innovative applications for 5G. All this said, many network managers may not know how to take advantage of 5G, especially with the scores of performance promises flooding the market. Identifying the legitimate, value-generating tools and services needed to get the most out of 5G for any specific business needs isn’t easy.

For these reasons, this is a critical time for business and government decision makers — a period to learn where the 5G market is, where it’s heading and what’s needed to best implement the technology. 

Discovering innovative 5G apps

A wave of new 5G wireless applications crop up nearly every week.

In Korea, the government plans to “introduce 5G-equipped buses across the country by 2023,” according to a report in the Korea Herald which will give citizens access to free wireless internet that is up to four times faster. More than 29,000 of the country’s 35,000 buses will be equipped with 5G network service and provide internet speeds up to four times faster than the current  LTE Wi-Fi they rely on.

For drone aircraft, 5G speeds and reliability will help boost the commercial applications of the technology. For years, safety concerns of aviation authorities around the world have prevented drone aircraft from flying beyond the visual line of sight (VLOS) of operators, which greatly limits the distance drones can operate.

But 5G has begun to eliminate those concerns because the latency of 5G is so brief, the connection to the drone is more secure. The 5G signal is also 360-degrees, which helps strengthen the link between the drone and control applications.

Israel launched a pilot program last summer that seeks to control smart traffic cameras over 5G in partnership with Israel’s National Transport Infrastructure Company. Officials there seek to upgrade communications infrastructure around the country with the help of smart applications.

The rise of 5G is also enabling some organizations to become more nimble. WISE Employment, an employment service dedicated to servicing the disadvantage isn’t locked down by physical locations. If one location isn’t working, they pack up their networking equipment and set up shop in a more promising spot within a day.

You can’t do that with a wireline connection.

These are only a tiny fraction of the ways organizations are employing 5G, but they should be viewed as harbingers.

The early adopters will get a jump on competitors in terms of accumulating knowledge of operating with 5G. Those organizations that invest now in 5G also increase their chances of thinking up new apps that remove the distance between them and the customer, forge stronger customer loyalty and improve the customer experience — in short, it becomes a competitive advantage.

Finding the right partners

Still, for those networking IT teams who may not fully understand the benefits of cellular yet, separating fact from marketing-speak may prove difficult. Leaders should beware the legions of startups and hotspot operators venturing into the lucrative enterprise-grade market by offering entry-level solutions that lack relevant features. For that reason, network managers should look for specific attributes from any cellular-network provider they partner with, including:

  • Experience: if you’re evaluating vendors, you first and foremost need to look at companies with an established track record in cellular.
  • Gear: Any partner should supply their own products, such as routers and adapters. Modems should connect quickly and efficiently to the carrier network with very little manual provisioning.
  • Expansive network management: Organizations must team with vendors who can manage servers, display uptime, show them how much traffic their SIM cards are using so the manager when needed can switch providers. The management tool must have the ability to assist the customer to deploy their wireless WAN network, manage their wireless Wi-Fi and troubleshoot if something goes wrong. Their products must efficiently connect to a cellular network, provide auto connection and auto sensing features. And this brings us to one of the core differentiators between the category’s longtime players and the Johnny-come-lately crowd. To offer the best service, intelligence regarding the cellular conditions on a network must be baked into all of the partner’s products and services.
  • Cloud management: This technology represents the latest step in the evolution of network management. To learn the status of thousands of devices, all that’s required is an Internet connection. This enables oversight of hundreds of point of sale retail locations, or autonomous vehicles, or thousands of IoT devices. With the cloud, customers no longer must manage any on-prem software or hardware, save for downloading the latest software updates for their modems and routers.

To sum up, creating a high quality Wireless WAN requires a harmony of software, hardware and know-how. There’s no substitute for that. 

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