2018 saw the beginning of the 5G tidal wave, when countries like South Korea, China, the US, and Japan began rolling out the upgrade. But by no means is 5G available everywhere just yet. In some places, like the UK, 5G is just getting off the ground in 2020, and big providers like Verizon are currently only offering it in 33 U.S cities.

With coverage steadily expanding around the world, adoption rates are expected to exceed one billion users over the next few years. Ookla’s global 5G map, updated weekly, is a great resource for tracking which cities are currently offering 5G and with what provider.

66% of businesses will opt in to 5G by 2020, according to Gartner, and several factors are driving that decision.

Better, Faster, Stronger

The first implication of 5G for modern business won’t come as a surprise: faster network speeds. While 4G speeds tend to hover around 56 Mbps, 5G would raise speeds to around 490 Mbps. Some have even claimed that 5G will be 100 times faster than 4G, potentially offering speeds “as fast as 10Gb/s.”

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Another likely outcome will be increased efficiency, as 5G networks will be able to handle more complex applications running at once without performance issues. This opens the potential for using more IoT devices, streaming multiple HD videos at once, and even better VR experiences. Along with this will come perks like increased battery life on devices and fewer dropped cell phone calls.

Your Network: Revitalized

Aside from the obvious advancements in speed and efficiency, 5G will bring some additional benefits for the health of your network. Network slicing allows organizations to set up dedicated virtual networks with specific functions for each – all in a single infrastructure. Network slicing accommodates the multifaceted needs of modern organizations, including computing and storage. Ultimately, this translates to better user experience for those on your network.

Another buzzword in relation to 5G’s arrival is edge computing. Edge computing is a way of clearing up congestion on a network and creating an ideal setup: high-bandwidth and low latency. For larger organizations, the edge can be a gamechanger, as it allows many departments to streamline activities from one network.

“Processing high volumes of data at a faster speed will require new antennas, new devices, and new applications for wireless data. The influx of additional data – which will need to be processed in real-time – will drive the need for edge computing.” source

Data Capabilities

With faster speeds and more sophisticated network functioning, you might be wondering what this means for your data. One of the biggest shifts that will likely occur is the progression of IoT devices. This means data will be easier to gather from more devices than ever before – cameras, sensors, drones, etc. While some of this was already possible, 5G will enable for faster insight drawing and decision-making based on data. Organizations will be able to sort, store, and process unstructured data using analytics tools without the clunky problems associated with less advanced technology.

It’s not only about speed, but about size. 5G will accommodate greater cross-device connectivity and bigger data sets than any previous generation. This will translate to more real-time data that organizations can act on.

5G Impact Across Industries

A study by Qualcomm predicted that 5G will usher in unprecedented growth compared to previous generation upgrades. Survey participants believe 5G will have a larger impact on the economy than 4G had, as well as the benefits of increased productivity, small business growth, and global competition.

Along with these predictions, 5G is expected to have wide-reaching impacts on healthcare, manufacturing, transport, and retail.

“Deloitte estimates that the UK market for digital health will grow to £2.9 billion in 2018. Services such as remote and robotic surgery are developing fast. Remote patient monitoring and patient records access are advancing rapidly too. 5G is expected to usher in automation in manufacturing, creating smart factories that will make processes more efficient and cut costs. Mobile AR shopping experiences will revolutionize retail, with customers able to visualize products in a local environment. In-store, AR will enable shoppers to view additional information on a product simply by pointing their phones at it. 5G is expected to usher in self-driving vehicles, as well as making smart traffic lights even more intelligent, reducing the time waiting in traffic.” source

This broadscale view reveals just a few of the ways 5G can make a huge impact on day-to-day life as well as business operations.

Cybersecurity Risks & Added Costs

Despite the many potential benefits, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns with the development of a global 5G network. Additional risks will come with the transition, and organizations will need to take extra precautions in ways they previously didn’t.

Starting with cybersecurity basics is a good idea. “Firewalls, required employee VPN use, malware scanning and removal, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) are all crucial elements to start with,” according to Forbes.

In addition to security woes, countries are dealing with the costs associated with setting up 5G. Deloitte estimates that the U.S. alone with invest anywhere from $130 to $150 billion in extensive fiber optics cabling. The same will go for businesses, as 5G technology will be more costly to implement than 4G was.

Challenges aside, hopes are generally high for 5G having a positive and innovative impact on a number of societal factors – that includes small business growth and productivity. With that said, 5G rollouts are just beginning in U.S cities, and it will likely be several years before we see the full impact of this global technology upgrade.