5G and Your Company: Where to Start

Forget what you thought you knew about wireless connectivity. The 5G network will soon be a reality and many industries will be affected by the wave of disruption it will bring with it. But there's good news, you still have time to get ahead of the curve before it's too late. 

If your business hasn't already undergone a digital transformation, now is the time to do so. To prepare for 5G, companies will have to re-evaluate their business models, taking into account how next-generation technology will evolve their day-to-day operations, future processes, and product lines. 

We sat down with Jason Wildt, Jabil's Director of Strategic Development, to discuss what to expect from 5G and how companies can prepare for the 2020 launch. 

Software, Meet 5G 

5G promises to transport large amounts of information with unprecedented speed – about 1,000 times faster than 4G, if you can believe that. This combination of low latency and high bandwidth will enable all sorts of new technological advancements – but the real value will be in transforming our current networks and platforms, according to Wildt.  

Essentially, 5G will require two devices on each end of the transport and software will be critical in operating these endpoints, whether it's in the cloud or embedded into the device. "Since 5G is a collection of mostly existing technologies, there's a huge set of software responsible for managing them and their transportation through the new network," says Wildt.  

"Without software, there’s really no point in doing this," he adds.  

Disrupting the Status Quo 

As expected, the first industry to be disrupted by 5G will be telecommunications. Traditionally, that last mile of bandwidth delivery to your home has been restricted to whoever originally laid the cable or telephone lines, limiting options for high-speed internet to one or two different alternatives. However, Wildt revealed why that’s no longer the case. "If you consider how ubiquitous mobile coverage is and that any 4G provider can deliver high-speed wireless connectivity to your house, all of a sudden, the amount of competition at the home or at the business can be wildly increased."  

This transformation of the competitive landscape opens the flood gates for non-traditional telecom companies to get in on the action. But there is still plenty of investment that needs to be made in preparation of 5G. In fact, U.S. telecom operators could invest approximately $275 billion over the next seven years to deploy wireless technology according to an Accenture Strategy Report

And it's not just the telecom industry that will be affected. Just take a look at what's already starting to happen in the content delivery business. "If you think about how Comcast bought NBC and how Verizon is angling to buy Yahoo, companies that own the pathway now want to own the content as well," Wildt explained. These kinds of mergers will revolutionize how the entertainment industry operates. 

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Redefining Customer Experiences  

When you think about the vast amount of information that will be collected using 5G, "big brother watching" comes to mind. "There's definitely a double-edged sword with regard to customer experiences," Wildt claims. "On one hand, the more data that companies can collect about you, the better they know you as a segment of people who behave in the same manner with respect to that product or service. Being able to understand consumption habits and how you receive information could go a long way in improving customer experience." That all sounds beneficial for the customer, until you consider the other side. 

"On the other hand, there’s the privacy issue that’s going to have to be grappled with. Companies will amass a ton of information and if they collect enough pieces, eventually they'll be able to get a segment of one," Wildt argues.  

But the discussion doesn't end with the data being collected. What happens with products that are not currently digitized? "Maybe some things are better off left in the analog way they exist today," says Wildt, "unless adding a digital experience and collecting the information can improve the customer experience."   

The Challenges of Implementing 5G

Developing a network that can carry the connectivity load won't be easy. The road to adoption contains a number of obstacles around delivery and infrastructure, to name a few. "For instance, if the network becomes overcrowded with too many users trying to connect, it must be able to reroute users to different pathways while still providing a high-quality experience," Wildt explained.  

Companies are in a race to deploy new endpoints or adapt existing ones to make use of the 5G network. But if the infrastructure isn't yet in place, deploying 5G won't be possible. The main challenge around that will be around the network infrastructure. "As a company planning a product launch dependent on 5G, you must consider the way that the telecommunications companies and infrastructure partners are rolling out their technology," he advised. 

There's also a talent gap between the number of qualified engineers and developers available and the needs of companies vying to build 5G products and services. It isn't just the rank and file workers that are lacking education around 5G. More than a third (36%) of all executives polled say they know “very little” or “nothing” about the technologies and issues around 5G wireless, according to a Forbes Insights Report

Companies that already have experience in wireless technology will be well-positioned for success. But if you really want to have leverage, Wildt recommends that you partner with a manufacturer with deep domain expertise across different markets that utilize connectivity. That way, you can benefit from the technology cross-pollination and remain competitive. In the 5G era, you'll either disrupt or be disrupted. Which one will it be for your company?