A 5G spotlight – is it too early to invest?


Seán Keating, CEO at Vilicom, discusses current and future opportunities for companies when investing in 5G.

Is now really the right time to invest in 5G technologies?

From a business perspective, investing in a fast and resilient telecom network has never made more sense. Between 1997 and 2016 the prices of telecom services fell by 95 percent, enabling more businesses to connect and innovate in areas previously considered financially or technologically unviable.

For example, just look at the rapid consumer shift towards on-demand multimedia apps – technology which only a decade ago made little business sense due to data costs and the absence of a fast, widely accessible mobile network.

But how can 5G build on the foundation laid by 4G, and what does it mean for business innovation?

A future-facing technology

A lot has been said about 5G that could rightly be considered overhype. Yes, it’s faster, and its low 1ms latency is exceptional, but on the consumer side, it’s very unlikely that the average mobile user will benefit from these improvements.

For streaming music and video, 4G already does a good enough job. But for businesses, 5G represents a valuable opportunity to deliver SLAs they couldn’t realistically meet with 4G, and facilitate Industry 4.0 technologies and innovation.

From manufacturing and agriculture to healthcare and public services – the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected data analytics platforms are transforming operations and driving innovation across nearly every industry.

In fact, it’s anticipated there will be 41 billion IoT devices by 2027, and companies will have invested up to $1.1 trillion in IoT by 2023.

But it’s 5G that’s the great enabler – the network that ties it all together. And as access to 5G becomes more commonplace, the easier and more affordable it will be to invest in data-intensive innovation.

How is 5G being used already?

As the network foundation for Industry 4.0 innovation, 5G is already helping people support some game-changing use cases:

Accelerating MRI transmissions and telemedicine

With 5G, healthcare providers can send large imaging files captured by MRI machines to remote specialists for review in near real-time, monitor remote patient wearables, and in the future, even perform remote robotic surgery. For traditional check-ups, 5G can help GPs provide disruption-free, real-time HD video for telemedicine appointments.

Reducing manufacturing downtime

In factories, time is money, and if a connected machine goes down due to network loss, including a lack of available bandwidth, the financial fallout can be massive.

With a private 5G network, network slicing can be used to ensure critical operational data always gets network priority, while 5G’s superior bandwidth means it can cope easily with a high number of connected production systems. This also enables manufacturers to resource digital twins and big data analytics with appropriate bandwidth.

Improving smart public services

With 5G, local governments can create faster, more intelligent smart initiatives across transportation, public security, and citizen services. These include enabling connected vehicles to drive smarter and safer, analysing real-time surveillance data at the edge, and enforcing energy conservation policies across connected public utilities.

How to seize the 5G opportunity

It may seem like early days, but by investing in a 5G platform now, your return on investment will grow year-on-year as IoT innovation continues to diversify and enable new, cost-saving possibilities.

For example, in field service operations, why limit certain jobs to specific engineers, when you can shorten novice training and empower engineers to work on almost any ticket with 5G-enabled augmented reality (AR) technology? It may sound like science-fiction, but it’s real, and it’s driving productivity and lowering costs.

But to get the most out of your 5G investment, we recommend partnering with a vendor like Vilicom that can adapt to your changing network needs, and help you realise a best-fit solution that works for you.

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Seán Keating

An engineer by profession, Seán Keating decided 10 years ago to focus on developing his management skills rather than further specialising in niche technical areas. In 2011, a year after completing an executive MBA, he was appointed Chief Executive of Dublin-based wireless consultancy and systems integrator, Vilicom

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