How Will 5G Change Business Communications and Data?

Remember 3G? Remember how it was all a network could do to deliver email conveniently? Video calling was unheard of. Mapping features pushed the boundaries of the possible. It’s almost like ancient times.

Not only did 4G change what was possible on a smartphone, it changed customer relations, marketing, human resources. It changed how you hail a cab! If anyone tells you 5G isn’t a big deal, remind them of that.

The bigger question is what kind of changes should you look for, and how can you prepare as businesses to take advantage of these changes? 

This article doesn’t cover the basics of 5G because there are plenty of great resources already. Answers to, “how much faster? When exactly? Which cities or devices” don’t help create a strategy for the future. If you’d like to understand 5G fundamentals read the October 2019 update on 5G by Tom’s Guide. 

Otherwise, here are a few key pieces of the puzzle to help keep your feet on the ground in the next episode of the tech cyclone.

Network Competition between ISPs and Telecoms  

With transfer speeds up to 1 Gbs and the ability to manage exponentially more devices, some 5G networks will offer just as much speed to each individual as the ISP plans geared for offices with 100 employees

You can buy 5G routers already that take 5G carrier signals and then distribute data over Wi-Fi. Convergence does not recommend these yet; the tech and network need to evolve just a bit more. But sit with that possibility for a second. Imagine having one bill for cell and business Internet. Imagine having enough connectivity in your mobile device to distribute to an entire office. 

That means major telecoms will be able to compete with ISPs, and switching carriers will be easier than ever. 

Already we have seen offices go cordless and use Wi-Fi for everything, from phones to workstations. 5G means you’ll also have a choice in how to receive data — either through a hole in the wall or a 5G antenna. Be prepared for plans to get a bit more confusing, but there will be some great opportunities to boost business performance while reducing expenditures.

Devices Go Virtual: Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR)

Some of the functionality that has become standard today was possible back in the 3G era, but it wasn’t commonplace. 4G just made those hard-to-reach applications easy enough for any device to use. You can look at those applications considered ‘premium’ today to understand what 5G will look like. It’s totally virtual man.

All it takes…

is one look at an HTC Vive to realize why VR is still unpopular. The headset weighs in at a massive one-pound, most of which hangs off the front of your face. What’s more, the machine is attached by cord. This is a huge pain in the literal neck. 

HTC hates the cord too, but it is necessary because it’s the only stable way of communicating multiple Gbs between the headset and PC. Wi-Fi has improved a lot, but it can’t quite get there. 

5G tech can help. Although the city-wide network pushes 1 Gbs, mmWave tech (an sub-innovation of 5G) makes radiowaves capable of carrying multiple Gbs, enough for HD VR. The problem is stability. mmWave is highly sensitive to physical objects, so if you turn the wrong way you disrupt the connection. It’s not an easy fix.

Making mmWave work requires more stability. A few other innovations will be necessary like this MIT student’s experiment with cordless VR, but it will happen. 

Augmented Reality (AR) is slightly easier than VR in the sense of raw bandwidth requirements, but it is still quite difficult. Take one look at the Google Glass story arc. It looks like a phoenix, dying and rising from the ashes. This has happened a few times. 

Even still Glass has been adopted by large manufacturers, healthcare providers, and logistics companies. Mainly, AR has been used to assist employees in doing manual but complex, infrequent tasks. But again, bandwidth and latency have limited applications. 5G tech lifts that limitation significantly while reducing cost and availability. 

If you have employees in the field performing complex tasks, then AR should be on your watchlist. But even if you don’t, then there is an important takeaway. 

Right now it’s like watching a bunch of kids around the Christmas tree, playing with their presents. Everyone is just putting things together and seeing what they can do. 

5G is based on harnessing a different frequency to carry data, and that frequency is unique in its advantages and disadvantages. In a way it was the perfect challenge, the kind that promises huge payoff but also substantial complication, the kind that tends to make smart people very resourceful. 

5G has been tough, but it has spurred a lot of innovation. Many of the techs that are required to make 5G work are already being used to improve 4G networks, but that’s the easiest part. They also deliver new capabilities — to manufacturers, to businesses, and their customers. Once they get organized you will have some groundbreaking ways to set up your office infrastructure and communicate. 

VR

Convergence Solutions was incredibly helpful to me when I joined my firm. Convergence had long managed our Telecomm PBX and handset equipment so I turned to them to help our full office renovations. Once our immediate phone relocation and wiring needs were handled promptly and professionally by the Convergence team, I found we were using a variety of unrelated vendors to manage our voice, conference call, IP Phones, and internet services. It was clear there was a lot to improve upon in terms of service, price and quality with this confederacy of dunces, so I stopped to talk with Steve Solton about our overall communications infrastructure.  After a brief discussion, it was apparent Convergence were experts on more than just the PBX in my back room, they began to identify our network server and port issues, suggested solid state industry enhancements, AV Conferencing solutions and  much more.  We are implementing many of these ‘Convergence’ solutions presently, none of which are minor, but all which are being expertly handled.

Bob Conway
Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell

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