What does 5G mean for business?
Networking & Communications

What does 5G mean for business?

This is a contributed article by Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, Toshiba Northern Europe

 

With 5G on the horizon, there has been much debate not only around when the network will arrive for commercial use, but also in determining its potential impact on businesses. With a projected subscription base of half a billion by 2022, the significant speed increase 5G will provide is anticipated to drive mobile data usage to new levels. With that in mind, consumers and businesses alike gearing up for the deployment of 5G, with a recent report from Deloitte stating that it "has the clear potential to offer a variety of new and enhanced capabilities over existing mobile technologies".

 

How 5G will impact business

5G is already causing a stir amongst a variety of industries. Ericsson's research into 5G's influence within ten key sectors - including manufacturing, healthcare, energy and utilities - found that 78 per cent of respondents believe the technology will enable them to improve or develop customer offerings. It's clear that 5G represents a great opportunity for businesses to digitally transform their operations and infrastructure, but how can they achieve this?

Perhaps most obviously, 5G is set to play a critical role for organizations in enhancing their mobile and remote working capabilities, enabling employees to work faster, more efficiently and more productively across multiple locations, whether that will be from home or a client site. Its value also shouldn't be overstated in the age of IoT, helping to improve data management and transfer speeds as such information becomes increasingly central to operations across all industries. The flip side of this is of course the growing challenge of ensuring business-sensitive data is robustly secure in the face of increasingly intelligent and advanced cyber-threats.

 

The 5G-related security threat

A report by risk firm ThreatMetrix found that 80 million cyberattacks were attempted in Europe throughout the first quarter of 2018, a 30 per cent increase over the previous year. 5G will offer better speed than 4G and LTE technologies, but a by-product of this will be the creation of a greater threat landscape as cyber-criminals aim to exploit the increasingly mobile workforce and ever-growing number of internet-connected touchpoints across the network - both of which are supplemented by 5G.

Toshiba's Maximising Mobility research found data security to be a key investment priority for almost half (48 per cent) of IT decision-makers this year in terms of managing the data generated by M2M and IoT technologies, which many consider a major security challenge of 5G. A recent paper from the University of Surrey states as much, citing that "security is fundamental to the successful delivery of 5G networks across a wide range of industry verticals." This is giving rise to new technologies aimed at overcoming this threat, most notably mobile edge computing solutions, which enable data communication to be locally encrypted and translated to a communication protocol before being sent to the company's network core via the cloud.

 

5G on the edge

With security naturally a top priority for many organizations, the popularity of mobile edge computing solutions is set to rise in order to increase perimeter security in the mobile age. But the benefit of such technology isn't limited to purely data security. They also help to create a more efficient and productive mobile workforce by processing data at the edge of the network, which brings the added benefit of reducing data garbage and the wider strain on cloud services.

Such solutions can also act as the gateway to bringing IoT-enabled partner devices to the business world, many of which will begin to find a foothold once 5G becomes widely accessible. Wearables - most notably smart glasses - are perhaps the most prominent example of this. According to Toshiba's research, 5G was ranked by IT leaders as the factor most likely to drive uptake of smart glasses for industrial and professional applications in the coming years. Bringing the ability to deliver new capabilities for field-based and remote workers, such solutions could revolutionize the way we work in the era of 5G. A boiler engineer conducting an annual service, for example, could use smart glasses to call up the schematics of the boiler, allowing for hands-free repair and assistance, as well as the ability to and then report back in real-time.

5G will provide enterprises with enhanced productivity and connectivity, but while it will open more opportunities than technologies before it, security will always be a constant issue in the IT landscape regardless. It is, therefore, the scope of 5G to act as the catalyst behind new and upcoming technologies, rather than traditional ones, which will be of upmost importance to organizations over the next few years. Solutions such as mobile edge computing will benefit tremendously from the capabilities of 5G, and it is such technologies which can help businesses to maximize 5G's potential from both a mobility and a security perspective.

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