How 5G will affect your business in 2020

Although consumers represent the main segment driving 5G development, we’ll see an increasing number of services aimed at enterprises next year—and an enriched unified communications and collaboration experience.


Looking at my bingo card of 5G predictions for 2020, I didn’t think ‘driverless bus’ would come up before ‘smartphone service,’ but sometimes technology trends are funny that way.

What kind of year will 2020 be for 5G tech? In South Korea, you might be able to chat on your 5G phone while riding on a driverless 5G bus before the end of next year.

In North America, meanwhile, many people are still waiting for the proverbial 5G bus to leave the station, so to speak. Will widespread 5G service finally be rolled out in North America during 2020?

That’s just one question we’re pondering in our 5G predictions for 2020. What does the year ahead hold for 5G hardware? How will 5G affect the enterprise, if at all, in the next 12 months? What should enterprises do to prepare for 5G next year?

5G hardware

On the chicken-and-egg front (“what came first, the service or the device?”), there are still only a handful of 5G smartphone handsets available on the market. So when it comes to 5G hardware, the situation is the same as with 5G service: options remain limited, at least for the first part of 2020.

5G build-out

2020 could be annus antennabilus, with thousands of 5G antennae sprouting up across North America. That’s because mmWave spectrum, which will dominate the early stages of 5G rollout in the U.S., has a very short range. It also has a tough time penetrating solid objects like buildings and trees—even thick panes of glass, according to senior IDG tech reporter Michael Simon in a recent Tech Talk webcast chat.

That means a lot of antennae must be built to ensure good coverage, especially in urban areas where the dense concentration of residential and commercial buildings can stand in the way (literally) of mmWave signals.

Next year, Gartner expects communications service providers (CSPs) to invest heavily in their shift from transitional 5G tech (which bridges the gap from 4G to 5G) to standalone 5G tech. Gartner says seven per cent of the world’s CSPs have “already deployed 5G infrastructure in their networks,” particularly in South Korea, Finland, Switzerland, U.K. and the U.S.

In 2020, Gartner believes 5G network building by CSPs will accelerate the most in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden, Qatar and the UAE.

Enterprise services

“Although consumers represent the main segment driving 5G development, CSPs will increasingly aim 5G services at enterprises,” Gartner predicts in its global 5G infrastructure forecast. “5G networks are expected to expand the mobile ecosystem to cover new industries such as the smart factory, autonomous transportation, remote healthcare, agriculture and retail sectors, as well as enable private networks for industrial users.”

In yet another forecast, Gartner predicts outdoor surveillance cameras will dominate 5G IoT solutions in 2020, comprising 70 per cent of the installed base within the global 5G IoT market. Gartner says connected cars will eventually surpass outdoor surveillance cameras, with IoT vehicles accounting for the bulk (39 per cent) of the total 5G IoT market by 2023.

5G will also enrich the UCC experience next year, according to Aruna Ravichandran, CMO of Cisco’s collaboration business division. She told UC Today that 5G will enhance enterprise UCC in 2020 by enabling augmented and virtual reality, which she believes will gain traction as workplace training tools.

Enterprise 5G prep

Most of the preparation for 5G is happening at the CSP level rather than among individual enterprises themselves. Analysts at Ovum predict “CSPs (will) move toward a software-based cloud network architecture in preparation for 5G.” Ovum expects the first commercial deployments of multi-access edge computing (MEC)—which will be enabled by 5G—to start in South Korea and China sometime during the next 12 months.

Related: MEC and 5G: A marriage of connectivity and speed

Enterprise challenges

Don’t expect a massive wave of 5G enterprise adoption to sweep across North America in 2020. Most enterprises feel like they’re still in the dark about the technology, including when it will be available, long-term pricing options and technical requirements for integration and security.

That’s backed up by an E&Y poll of U.K. businesses from about a year ago. It found 30 per cent had “poor understanding of the benefits and use cases” of 5G and 32 per cent felt “5G lacks relevance to (their) overall technology and business strategy.”

While it’s anyone’s guess as to how vendors and CSPs will educate enterprises about 5G in 2020, it’s a safe bet that most advertising will continue to target consumers. (Yep, those 5G ads that sparked a lawsuit, settled in April, were aimed at U.S. consumers, not businesses.)

My favourite 5G marketing campaign is a series of five new commercials from Australian carrier Optus. Each commercial features five characters starting with the letter G (five guitarists, five gamers, etc.) who demonstrate the benefits of 5G connectivity. One ad starring five grannies uses a white-haired lady on a motorized scooter to make the case that 5G means faster speeds.

I don’t know if the ads will educate Aussies about 5G, but the five grannies did manage to make me smile.

Images: hakule/iStock; bubaone/iStock

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