Will Enterprise 5G Use Cases be Ready for Prime Time?

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets:

  • As some 5G networks will be commercially available by the end of this year, operators must now turn to development of compelling and realistic use cases beyond a faster rendition of 4G networking.
  • Operators need to up their game if they are to be recompensed for the substantial investments they are making in 5G. The question is, will autonomous cars, robots, and virtual reality be enough to spark buyer interest?

While 5G services are not yet live, this next generation of wireless technology is already top of mind for service providers, OEMs, and other telecom market ecosystem players. Aside from gearing up to build out the technology, they will be working together to make sure that 5G use cases are compelling – i.e., different enough from 4G to matter to customers. As with any new generation of wireless, the stakes are high, and operators are hoping that they’ll make back their substantial investments in 5G. For most operators, this should come via a “massive” uptake of connectivity, plus revenues from advanced services spanning consumers and business customers.

With 5G, the stakes may be even higher than before, as the technology supports speeds and latency that go significantly beyond those of 4G, and network slicing promises to offer new ways of selling services, opportunities for content prioritization, and service tiers backed by solid quality of service (QoS) guarantees. But operators need to move beyond their constant barrage of technology build-out narratives and acknowledge that it’s the use cases and business outcomes that will make the difference between offering yet another, just a faster wireless offering and instead delivering a novel and compelling portfolio that changes how customers see and use cellular services.

Each operator has a slightly different idea about the kinds of applications that 5G will empower. Most fall into one of several categories: AR/VR-enabled use cases, support of massive IoT uptake, and ultra-low latency gaming and video broadcast applications. Device-to-device (including vehicle-to-vehicle) communications is another key enabler to be delivered by 5G, and is critical for the future of autonomous driving.

Will Businesses Pay for New Services?

In the enterprise, massive communications traffic is expected from sensors embedded in roads, railways, and vehicles. 5G providers also aim to leverage the technology’s reliability and low latency to control critical services and infrastructure for public safety, healthcare, government organizations, and utilities. Real-time video streaming, support for IoT applications such as autonomous vehicles, and advanced use of robotics in manufacturing should be important to businesses if the ROI for these applications is compelling.

Will 5G Change Market Dynamics?

Many questions remain open, of course. Will the enterprise appetite to spend more to use these futuristic use cases exist when 5G networks become a reality? Will devices to support these applications be in place once those networks are ready? Will businesses finally see wireless as a valid replacement for wireline broadband? And lastly, will operators be able to offer all these futuristic services profitably? Unfortunately, only time will tell.

What do you think?

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