The world is developing at an exponential pace. Technology like autonomous vehicles (AVs), virtual reality and the Internet of Things have the potential to alter how we interact with the world around us and provide businesses with the opportunity to enhance customer experience on a new level.
Our digital infrastructure that provides our mobile data networks needs to be able to support these advancements to ensure that we are equipped to fully benefit from everything that technology has to offer and to guarantee that we have the ability to achieve all possible future developments.
The fifth generation of mobile networks (5G) will provide greater capacity for technologies that rely on mobile data. While 5G is not currently available in the UK, it is important that businesses understand the impact that it could have on their future strategies and supply chain as the world becomes more data driven. The West Midlands has been chosen as the UK's first 5G area, receiving £75 million in public funding to develop the technology before national rollout commences.
What is 5G?
5G is the next generation of mobile internet connectivity for the world to experience. 2G provided the standard voice calls we will remember from the days before smartphones, as well as introducing SMS and MMS messaging. 3G then allowed for mobile internet access with 4G building on this to be able to provide gaming services, HD TV and video conferencing.
Download and upload speeds will be faster with 5G, making our experience of data reliant services almost instantaneous. At the same time, the technology should become much more reliable with less delay and better coverage. Until 5G is implemented, the full scope of the potential innovation it could bring is unknown. However, there are a number of areas where the technology is expected to create an impact to both businesses and consumers. One of the first items that companies need to make plans for is ensuring that their IT spend acknowledges the change to 5G and ensure that future hardware purchases are compatible.
Here we set out some of the potential use cases for 5G in business.
By having faster and more reliable access to mobile data, a number of growing technologies and the ideas that surround them should be able to become a reality through 5G. Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are one initiative that can reach its full potential thanks to 5G. The enhanced connectivity could mean that cars on the road are able to learn from each other, so if one driver experiences an obstruction it will alert the vehicles travelling behind it to ensure smoother and safer journeys.
The speed that 5G will provide is necessary to be able to provide autonomous vehicles (AVs) with the decision making process that is needed to become fully autonomous. An AV needs to make decisions faster than a human being and therefore must to be able to process information between vehicles extremely quickly.
Once driverless cars become the norm, there is then the opportunity for logistics to implement AVs, allowing for advantages such as more journeys at night to lessen congestion and improve delivery times. Our whitepaper 'Paving the way: Building the infrastructure for autonomous vehicles' explores the digital connectivity needed across the UK to power AVs.
5G can also create opportunities in retail, with faster data speeds enabling personalised experiences for customers. By becoming better connected to shoppers' smartphones, retailers will be able to push digital advertising tailored for the customer while also incorporating technologies like virtual reality. With advertising beginning to use blockchain to provide transparent and real-time reporting, the implementation of 5G will allow businesses to gain immediate data for analysis to enable agile messaging and experiences based on success rates. Advertising can then become smarter both in the technology being used and delivery.
As retail continues to be dominated by the online market, the ability to turn shopping into a new experience to lure customers away from an e-commerce based journey is an attractive prospect. With 5G powering virtual reality, we could see shoppers enjoy personalised and immersive stores, for example a new sofa could be visualised in the home or outfits tried on without the need for dressing rooms.
Manufacturing and maintenance
While the implementation of 5G will help to power the Internet of Things (IoT) on a consumer level, there are also the advantages to consider within a business environment. The ability to add sensors to acquire data and predict maintenance and repairs could transform customer services and increase efficiency.
In manufacturing, connected machines would have the ability to forecast repairs to avoid unscheduled downtime. Meanwhile, in services like vehicle maintenance and logistics, 5G could be leveraged to provide proactive rather than reactive experiences by reporting on vital signs and fixing issues before they become problems.
How will 5G change business?
The improved capacity that 5G will bring to mobile connectivity has the potential to change how businesses interact with their customers and enable innovative ideas to become a reality. As the government and telecoms businesses move further forward to a 5G connected world, companies should begin to make plans to ensure that their current and future technology is able to leverage the benefits of 5G while also considering the opportunities that it could offer more strategically in terms of product and service offering.
Our Insights and Resources are recommended for businesses wanting to keep up-to-date with how technology is bringing change across industries. We will update you regularly with information from our legal experts in our tech team, as well as other sectors and services you may be interested in.