Next generation mobile: what can 5G do for the enterprise?

5G is on its way: it is almost two years since Samsung in South Korea tested its 5G mobile network, achieving download speeds up to 30 times faster than existing 4G LTE, and things have moved on since. In February trials of 5G in the US achieved speeds of 10Gbps.

What is 5G and how does it work?  5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology. It builds on 4G, which brought us the full packet-based mobile network, facilitated always-on anywhere connectivity and the mobile workplace. But where 4G occupies the frequency bands up to 20 MHz, 5G will inhabit the frequency band up to 6GHz.

The main characteristics of 5G are that it will be significantly faster than existing mobile connectivity, with lower latency, greater capacity, better interoperability and lower power. There is a possibility that commercial deployments could begin as early as 2017, but it is more likely that full, wide-ranging commercial deployments will happen in 2020.

Which apps will benefit?

Lower latency means better performance for high bandwidth apps. For consumers that means being able to stream video far more reliably or download a movie in a matter of seconds, and for the enterprise it means supporting mobile working much more effectively. 5G will make multi-person video calling on the move a reality and will deliver the fully wireless, cloud-based office, with all unified communications (UC) apps more reliably and consistently available.

Other sectors that will really benefit from 5G’s lower latency are gaming and broadcast. At the moment 4G can manage latency of between 40ms and 60ms, which is low, but not enough to enable truly real-time response from the remote server. Similarly, if 5G achieves the hoped for latency of between 1ms and 10ms, broadcasters will be able to deliver a better service. Spectators in sports stadiums, for example, will be able to watch live streams showing alternative camera angles of the match with no delay or buffering.

Enabling the enterprise

Because 5G will be significantly faster than 4G, it will take mobile working to the next level and enable higher productivity across more devices. 5G will help deliver a mobile digital workspace that offers increased flexibility and agility. One of the most crucial UC tools, video conferencing, will benefit hugely. Given that 94 per cent of businesses saying that the biggest benefit of video conferencing is increased efficiency and productivity, that is likely to be a killer app for enterprises.

Businesses could also be able to turn to 5G as a fixed-line network replacement, meaning they can connect up enterprise branch offices much more quickly and easily. And with the Internet of Things (IoT) fast becoming a reality, with billions of connected devices and machines expected on the network over the next few years, there is a real possibility of 5G providing the actual network backbone that powers IoT.

Potential use cases already in place

Trials of 5G are starting this year in the US. It is being pitched as a potential residential broadband offering, without the need to dig trenches or sink cabling. 5G could also provide a new, dedicated network for emergency services, where reliability and real-time communication is essential. 5G’s lower energy-per-bit usage would improve battery life of connected devices and low latency would provide sub-millisecond support for emergency services.

5G could also provide the bandwidth for apps like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), both of which have already been trialed for use in enterprise environments. 4K video is a must-have service for next-gen mobile and 5G will support and power that too.

Autonomous cars is another area where 5G will be critical – it will be the mechanism that ‘drives’ self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles deployed today rely on cell towers for connectivity and to determine their locations, the proximity of other vehicles and more. The latency present in a 4G network means that cars currently travel over 4 feet before they receive a notification that another vehicle or obstacle is ahead! With 5G that signal is much faster and makes the vehicle significantly safer, with stopping distance down to just a couple of centimeters.

A recent Forrester survey found that 71 per cent of enterprises believe mobility is a top priority – and 5G is set to power a whole new generation of mobility. Ultimately, 5G could provide the backbone of our economy and society in future, and will impact hugely on enterprises in every industry and on every area of our daily lives. Just be prepared to wait a few years for 5G to deliver all this. That said, if you aren’t already planning for the advent of 5G and making business decisions to help you benefit from it, what’s keeping you?

To learn more about how Orange helps enterprise organizations reap the benefits of mobility, please click here: