Getting ready for 5G: how to prepare your business for next-generation networks

The first large-scale commercial 5G networks are expected to go live later this year, bringing new communications capacities to cities across Europe, the US, and Asia. 5G, short for 'fifth generation', is the next standard set out for mobile networking technology, and will deliver a step change in business and personal telecommunications. 
Each new generation of mobile networking has brought new capabilities for enterprise users, from 2G's messaging, 3G's GPS and location-based services, to 4G's reliable data services. While 5G will enable a new wave of industrial and machine-to-machine communications, it's the human connection that matters most: having the right resources in place will be crucial to enable businesses to take advantage of the improved speeds, latency, and coverage that 5G will bring. 
While 5G may not be available nationwide for some time, organisations can start getting the right talent in place from today to make sure that they're perfectly positioned to use fifth-generation networks to boost their business.
Blisteringly fast download speeds
For individuals, the most important change brought by 5G is likely to be the introduction of multigigabit speeds. Thanks to its use of higher-frequency millimetre wave spectrum bands, 5G will give users connections that are 10 to 50 times faster than those available on 4G. That means the ability to share information faster than ever before - downloading hours of video in a matter of seconds, for example.
What's more, network speeds in motion - for example, mobile data use on trains or in cars - will rise significantly. But whether users are in the office or on the move, the huge increase in speeds will mean that for the first time, mobile networks will be a true replacement for wired networks - letting businesses potentially set up satellite offices in locations that might have once been out of the question. With a broader geographical spread, organisations will be able to open themselves up to all manner of new talent that might have once been located at too great a distance.
And, as 5G has been designed particularly with business applications in mind, new networks will be used to underpin diverse industrial use cases. Take the increase with in-motion speeds for example: while it's useful for business travellers to have greater bandwidth for working on the go, such increased speeds will be hugely useful for transport-related applications, such as self-driving cars, as well as industrial robots. Also, network slicing – the concept of running different networks on top of existing infrastructure – will take 5G to new levels, offering businesses a lot more elasticity and flexibility.
Of course, bandwidth and coverage are not synonymous - there are still remote areas that struggle to get a signal and there are plenty of offices where not-spots still exist. Standards-setting bodies and mobile network operators are supporting the increasing use of small cells, used to boost 5G coverage, particularly in urban environments and indoors.  Beamforming, introduced as part of the 5G standard, will also help in this respect.
Improved coverage, wherever you are
With all that extra capacity and coverage thanks to 5G, virtual and augmented reality technologies could see increased take-up with consumers - and businesses may want to supplement their marketing skills base accordingly.
Improved download speeds, along with better indoor coverage, will allow companies to invest more into Internet of Things (IoT) networks, gathering reliable and real-time data on all elements of the business. The number of connected objects used by enterprises worldwide is growing, and now is thought to number well into the billions. IoT gives businesses new insights into the functioning of their business, by allowing them to monitor and measure diverse elements of their supply chain, creating reams of data that simply wouldn't have been available before. 
To best exploit such information, companies need to invest not only in engineers with experience of creating and securing IoT networks, but also in the appropriate skills in big data analytics to extract the maximum business insight from all of the data those networks will gather, as well as data engineers and scientists to make sure the right information is being collected and queried.
Enabling artificial intelligence 
The lower latency that 5G networks will bring - the 5G standard specifies it should be under 1 millisecond - will also change what companies can use their mobile networks for. As 5G will drastically reduce the time it takes for machine-to-machine communication to complete, the next generation of mobile networks will enable a new wave of automation. Companies may need to seek extra engineers to reimagine supply chains and enterprise facilities where machines are acting independently. 
But that's not the end of the story: the greater use of sensor networks and IoT systems can become the foundation of greater business use of machine learning and artificial intelligence - with so much training data available, systems can be taught to be exceptionally accurate and adaptable in their work. Businesses can invest more into their staff with AI and machine learning to help build the foundations of independent industrial systems.
The budget bottom line
The good news for hardware buyers is that 5G will also bring new substantially better levels of efficiency, reducing power consumption and size. While that should mean lower opex for some equipment, the capex is likely to be higher. As with the arrival of every generation of mobile networking technology before it, when 5G hardware arrives, it will be notably more expensive thanks largely to the cost of 5G-compatible chips and radios. Many hardware makers have already committed themselves to making 5G-ready equipment, but expect the first generation of devices to be heavy on the pocket. 5G might mean new technology, but it will mean familiar challenges for your procurement, finance, and IT staff. 
If you have a technology talent gap within your enterprise, submit a job spec today. Alternatively, if you would like to talk over your hiring needs with one of our specialist recruitment consultants, or for help improving your recruitment process, please get in touch.
Doug Rode
Senior Managing Director, PageGroup
T: +44 7774 910358