5G – How will it really revolutionise the way we do business?

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Cat Mules

The next generation of high-speed mobile data is underway, how will it impact our lives and the way we do business?

Understandably, there is a great deal of interest in 5G, and its implications for life and business. A 2020 nationwide consumer study of 1000 New Zealanders found that 86% are seeking to learn more factual information about 5G. Of those surveyed, only 23% were confident in their 5G knowledge, while 40% said they knew “a little bit” and 36% said they knew nothing about 5G.  In comparison to existing mobile technology, 60% think 5G is as safe as what we currently have with 3G and 4G, 15% think it’s less safe and 13% think it’s safer.

TCF Chief Executive Geoff Thorn said, “The research has shown what we have long suspected: many New Zealanders are confused or unsure about 5G and what it may mean for them. That’s perhaps not surprising given there’s so much varying and confusing information out there.”

So what is 5G?

5G or “Fifth Generation” is simply the next development in mobile communication technology.  The first generation of analogue mobile devices gave us voice-exchange. Then 2G enabled texting. Basic mobile computing followed with 3G. Phones were soon equipped with higher speeds and numerous self-updating apps that enabled both work and play.

Now, 5G is facilitating download speeds more than 10 times faster than what we’re used to. Experts anticipate it’ll be able to connect to 500 times more devices than 4G.  5G means even faster data transfer speed. The direct consequences of Increased channels mean mobile networks offer mean more real-time connectivity, higher streaming and faster gaming will ramp up our virtual connections.

Improved capacity

First, 5G will provide increased network capacity. More people will be online, at once, more often. 5G works using bean-forming antenna, meaning more people can stay more connected at high speeds. No longer will lots of people being online at the same time be an issue. This mean seconds for movie downloads, instant access to YouTube clips.

Another impact of 5G will be reduced network latency – or delay. 5G will operate at under 20 milliseconds of latency. The lower the latency, the greater the capacity for real-time interactions – 1ms is the end-goal, which is as near-instant real-time scenarios. This compared to 4G networks – which had an average latency of around 50ms. As an example of what this means – it takes around 13ms for an image observed by the human eye to be processed by the brain.

The full capacity and potential of 5G enabled technologies is still emerging but with the faster pace of data exchange, and increased capacity, the rate of response times will increase. Governments, corporations and SMEs alike will be able to be more nimble.

Opportunities for emerging markets

All disruptive technologies will be sped up – 5G will impact every industry, making safer transportation, precision agriculture, digitised logistics — and more — a reality.

Smartphones are just one technology that will be increasingly incorporated into all communication. The IDC report shows that 5G is the driving force for the smartphone industry. Mid-pandemic, the PC was showing signs of overtaking smartphones in market share. There’s an every-increasing array of smartphones taking advantage of the emerging 5G technology, like the Samsung Galaxy Z  and the OPPO Find X2.

Augmented reality applications that sound futuristic or even far-fetched today, may soon become commonplace and will enable an entire new level of virtual experience.

A clothing store for example could enable virtual outfits trials in a range of immersive, dynamic environments. A gym could enable its members to track and level-up their workouts as they happen with graphical biometric alerts.

Rugby or other sports fans could use their 5G phones to act as real-time TV producer, selecting multiple camera angles to watch from, and setting cameras that track the metrics they want – such as ball spin rate or velocity.

Healthcare from the home is another big area of development with more opportunities for personalised and preventative healthcare. Growth areas include more reliable, real-time remote monitoring and increased responsiveness to patient care, with large imaging files, expanding telemedicine, and improved AR, VR and spatial computing.

Cautions and disinformation

As with the bottom-line of all business decisions, cost will be the driving factor about 5G use.

Experts from the Science Media Centre argue against a negative impact on human health. Dr Syed Faraz Hasan, Senior Lecturer of Communication Engineering and Networks, Massey University, comments, “While 5G mm-waves have never been used for large scale mobile telephony before, their effects have been examined by researchers in the past.”

The disinformation about 5G is never far from our minds too. With concerns about the accuracy of information – and legitimacy of agendas – aka ‘Fake News’ has come a proliferation of conspiracy theories – from the wacky to downright scary.

Professor Ekant Veer, Associate Dean of Postgraduate Research (Scholarships), University of Canterbury, comments that conspiracies “tend to generate greater traction online because of the way in which social media, and our own sense of self and desire to belong, operate.”

“Reinforcement and confirmation biases in these small groups (echo chambers) lead some to believe that these aren’t conspiracies but actual events and that only they are intelligent enough to see it.”

Finding better insights

The study by TCF, the industry body representing the majority of local telecommunications providers, led them led to launch a new website, with quick links to reputable expert sources in New Zealand and overseas. The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and the World Health Organisation (WHO) all provided support.

“The good news is the research also indicates most people are keen to learn more and they want easier ways to get reliable information. It also shows the vast majority recognise it’s important for New Zealanders to have access to the best mobile networks,” says CEO Thorn.

It’s anticipated to create more opportunities for involving groups typically most left out in the digital divide. 5G could also be step in the right direction for New Zealand Government’s responsibility to build capacity toward the ‘Three Ps’ – partnership, participation and protection – toward Māori, providing better chances to connect and grow collective insight of how data exists within their world, and communicate that knowledge back to iwi and hapū. This could lead to more involvement in “the technology sector” and  “interest in a space that demands innovative thinking.”

Challenges have been acknowledged with 5G. It has taken some 15 years for 4G networks to switchover around the world, and plenty of rural areas still rely on 3G. The rollout of 5G will likely follow a similar pattern. 5G won’t actually, fully replaced 4G. It is a complementary technology – the two will work in concert to get good speeds wherever we are. Experts agree that only a quarter of the global population is likely to gain high speed, low latency and highly secure cell 5G coverage by 2030. The global rollout is expected to cost some $700 billion to $900 billion.

Getting 5G-ready –

  1. Educate leaders about 5G with understanding about 5G and how they can use it support business goals.
  2. Given data will grow at an accelerated pace, with expanding automation and artificial intelligence, strengthen your big data analytics to be capable of understanding this data.
  3. Create a 5G strategy. Research it, explore what it means for processes or product changes relevant to you.

5G is not a solo process. It is just one part of the story – it results from and in parallel to evolving technologies, such as fibre, cable, Wi-Fi.

New Zealand effectively has four mobile networks – Vodafone, Spark, 2degrees and, some parts of rural New Zealand, the Rural Connectivity Group (The RCG), rolling out a shared 4G network, each of which are at work setting their 5G plans in place.

5G is powered by region-specific cell towers. To prevent single point of failures, and to provide greater capacity where user density is high, some regions are served by more than one cell tower of the same operator.

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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

Infrastructure modernisation

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The term Infrastructure Modernisation rose from the expensive struggle businesses face maintaining, upgrading and scaling their digital content infrastructure requirements. This infrastructure refers to data center hardware, including all the storage servers, network devices, operating systems and middleware that allow companies to store, protect and access content. It’s usually complex, expensive to manage, a hassle to manage and update, hard to expand, and, in many cases, needs modernising.

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