by Marc Fischer, Co-Founder and CEO of Dogtown Media
There’s no shortage of hype surrounding 5G. Per the June 2019 Ericsson Mobility Report, “No previous generation of mobile technology has had the potential to drive economic growth to the extent that 5G promises.” Now, this potential is finally becoming a reality. 5G is poised to disrupt practically every industry. But the fifth generation of cellular technology may not be here as soon as you think. A few obstacles stand in the way of 5G’s arrival. Still, opportunities abound for ambitious entrepreneurs.
HOW 5G WILL USHER IN A NEW ERA FOR NUMEROUS INDUSTRIES
Qualcomm claims 5G will reach initial download speeds of 1.4 gigabits per second. That’s about 20 times faster than 4G. Latency, the lag you experience when issuing a command to your smartphone, is also important to consider. A lag of a few hundred milliseconds is common with 4G. 5G will trim this down to a couple of milliseconds, making data transferring much more reliable.
This unprecedented speed and reliability will change the landscape of technology. 5G will open up a multitude of avenues for developers to build new mobile app features. It will also enable new capabilities in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
By allowing algorithms to expand their training datasets and run analyses concurrently, 5G will foster faster innovation and growth for AI and machine learning applications. The enriched insights and heightened precision that this produces will immensely improve the orchestra of sensors that IoT relies on.
Various sectors will benefit from these advantages. Smart cities and connected autonomous vehicles will become more viable. Virtual reality goggles will dwindle in size to resemble the devices we’ve seen in science fiction. We’ll be able to experience augmented reality in real-time. And manufacturing supply chains around the world will be able to optimize every step in their process.
5G will also transform healthcare. MRI machines and blood pressure monitors will be able to transfer data without delay. Surgeons will be able to operate remotely with no latency between their movements and those of a corresponding robotic arm. 5G will also save you a trip to the doctor’s office; telemedicine is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 16.5% from 2017 to 2023, thanks to this technology. All of this adds up to better experiences and outcomes for patients.
To reach the reality described above, we must address a few substantial challenges. Building 5G applications simply isn’t practical yet. Only the most prominent telecom companies have access to 5G kits, and only a handful of phones are 5G-enabled. In fact, 44% of telecom companies that responded to a survey by JABIL don’t have the proper tools for testing and managing 5G applications.
In a survey of 204 executives working at telecommunications companies with over 1,000 employees working on 5G network development, Jabil found that 53% of respondents believed 5G’s sheer complexity would be the greatest challenge to overcome. This problem becomes more convoluted when you consider that mobile carriers are providing different iterations of 5G as they try to capture market share as quickly as possible. Consequently, developers can’t define what 5G actually is; we’re stuck playing a guessing game.
To make matters worse, the vast majority of developers don’t have access to 5G infrastructure. Besides new software and devices, 5G requires hundreds of thousands of cell sites. Installing this infrastructure easily amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars in costs.
So when should we really expect 5G to become mainstream? According to 60% of Jabil’s survey participants, that should happen by 2021. 20% think it will occur in 2022. And 11% are patiently waiting until 2023 for 5G to become ubiquitous.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to all of this.
HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN GET READY FOR 5G
Regardless of when 5G arrives, entrepreneurs can take steps now to prepare for this new mobile era:
1. Practice with Simulations
You may not have access to true 5G network capabilities. But that doesn’t mean you can’t replicate them. For instance, Dogtown Media, my mobile technology firm, has used tools like the Raspberry Pi device and DIY kits such as Framework to simulate 5G’s rapid data transfer capabilities in a development environment. Beyond this, Qualcomm and some telecom consulting companies now offer services that enable developers to simulate 5G experiences.
These substitutes are usually much slower than the real thing. But they still give you a great way to practice.
2. Plan for Two User Experiences
5G adoption will be piecemeal. Major telecoms aren’t incentivized to make the costly infrastructure investments necessary to bring this technology to rural areas immediately. So a large amount of the U.S. population will have to make do with slower networks.
To bridge this digital divide, development teams should plan on creating 4G and 5G experiences of their products. By tailoring your offerings to this reality, you can capture more of the market share.
3. Brace Your Budget for More Work
All of this extra work to make two user experiences requires more time, effort, and money. So plan ahead accordingly by increasing your development budgets by 20% to 50%.
Users who travel across coverage areas may instantly downgrade or upgrade to different networks as a result. To accommodate this and provide a seamless experience, technologies must be flexible and capable of automatically detecting connectivity. This creates even more work for your development team.
5G has tremendous potential to create new value chains, unlock new business opportunities, and fundamentally change how we interact with technology. There’s no doubt it will bring radical transformation. But getting to this point still requires significant investment and serious work.
Don’t let this dissuade you from preparing for this new mobile era. While many people are patiently waiting for this future to come, others are working on making it a reality.
Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Marc Fischer and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security. Any use of this article without the express written consent of Guidepoint and Marc Fischer is prohibited.