As carriers pilot fifth-generation cellular networks, or 5G, most discussions have swirled around the benefits for consumers and smartphones. But businesses can reap significant advantages, too, beginning with the introduction of fixed wireless 5G -- as a point-to-point broadband replacement -- and ultimately even mobile 5G.
Let's take a closer look at some of the features and benefits of 5G for businesses.
- The most-discussed 5G feature is increased speed and bandwidth. With a data rate of up to 10 Gbps, 5G will bring a 10 times to 100 times improvement over the existing 4G LTE technology. Cellular is now a potential technology for branch office automation because WAN connections finally have enough bandwidth. For businesses, the real benefit of 5G might not be the actual bandwidth, but the pressure that 5G exerts on market prices of incumbent WAN connectivity.
- 5G's low latency, as low as 1 millisecond, will be the other key for WAN usage. Customers are using MPLS or dedicated lines today primarily for low latency in line-of-business applications. 5G's low latency may bring additional flexibility that lets businesses jettison some of their branch office MPLS infrastructure in favor of the less expensive and more flexible 5G connections to branches. This is especially true in retail or shared infrastructure or very remote environments.
- 5G density will enable up to 100 times more connected devices in the same physical area that 4G LTE operates today, while maintaining 99.999% availability. While this density may bring business advantages for mobile workforces, the real benefit is increasing the size of the mobile customer market. Mobile e-commerce is growing faster than retail and traditional computer-based e-commerce. More customers than ever use mobile technologies to shop online, so greater density increases the overall addressable market.
- An estimated 90% reduction in power consumption for devices means minor power savings at the smartphone level. But, from an infrastructure perspective, especially for IoT devices, the power savings could be significant. Combining IoT devices with a cellular 5G communication means lower power overhead in design and actual consumption. Remote devices can be expected to last significantly longer when running on battery alone. Some estimates even show that a 10-year remote battery life may be achievable for IoT-based sensor devices deployed in remote locations.
- Security is always a concern for mobile devices and IoT devices because the latter live on the edge of the corporate network. With 5G, stronger security than 4G LTE will be available for designers, including hardware security modules, key management services, over the air, secure element and others. This will help ensure that the data transmitted over the 5G network is secure while also hardening network endpoints.
Despite these new business features and benefits of 5G, the technology has some drawbacks. For instance, a key downside is 5G antenna coverage is lower than 4G, leading to greater antenna density for similar coverage. But, overall, once pilots are complete and 5G becomes pervasive, the real business benefits of 5G technology will become apparent.