With O2 launching its 5G network this week all four mobile network operators are now providing 5G in one form or another. Whilst the initial benefits of 5G are probably overhyped, the long-term benefits of 5G for UK PLC could be immense.
Our demands on our mobile networks are constantly increasing and going forward 4G won’t be able to cope. So techUK welcomes 5G being offered by all operators, Three, EE, Vodafone and O2, even with limited coverage.
But what does this mean for consumers?
In the here and now unless you can spend almost £1,000 on a handset or live in the select few places in London that Three is offering its 5G broadband then not much, yet. As technology develops and competition increases, the cost of 5G-enabled handsets will reduce and, in parallel, the availability of 5G-enabled broadband will increase.
In the future dropping internet enabled calls in crowded areas will be a thing of the past. You will be able to download films in under 10 seconds. And watch as much Netflix as you wish.
The main benefits are for enterprise
The Government forecasts that through UK leadership 5G could generate £173 billion of incremental GDP between 2020 to 2030, and to its credit, it is doing quite a bit to achieve this.
It is investing £200 million in 5G focused projects which have already demonstrated some of what 5G can offer business, including control of robotics and vehicles; untethered virtual reality; and gathering real time data from thousands of sensors enabling real-time inventory to better support ‘just-in-time’ supply.
However, there are a range of industries, projects and companies that currently cannot access a good 4G, never mind 5G, connection.
Ensuring businesses can access 5G sooner rather than later
To ensure businesses don’t delay taking advantage of what 5G has been promised to deliver we need to stimulate demand. To do this the 5G enterprise knowledge gap needs addressing and the understanding of potential value-add by 5G needs to be more widespread. techUK believes that the Government has a part to play in this.
Government could build on the business contacts Local Enterprise Partnerships have to ensure businesses know what harnessing 5G could mean for them. Enterprise demand will stimulate the network build needed.
Mobile operators, utilities and public sector infrastructure owners, such as Network Rail, also have a part to play. To assist with speeding up the rollout of 5G they need to work together to share infrastructure (underground ducting and underused fibre) as much as possible; from the roadside to the trackside mobile connectivity would improve.
If businesses and Government play their part, the benefits of 5G might be felt by all, sooner rather than later, including the thousands of small businesses that make up the backbone of our economy.