As the reality of what 5G is, will do, and for whom, and when, begins to set in, there is a scramble to find new buoyancy to keep the hype from fading away. As more and more data comes in that the consumer use case for 5G may not “be all that it can be,” the wireless industry and associated journalistic minions are hard at work looking for use cases.
I recently read a feed that says “85 percent of businesses are already, or will, adopt it sometime in the future.” Hmmm… that is interesting considering there are no commercial deployments of 5G yet. The research was done by TechPro, which interviewed 164 professionals to come up with this number.
OK, first of all the report did not specify who these “professionals” were, what field they were in, what companies they work for or any other demographic data about them. Second of all, 164 people hardly qualify as a decent sampling of anything!
I have been proselytizing, for some time, that the industry has been placing too many of their eggs in the consumer 5G expectations basket, specifically enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). While there is a decent 4G wireless infrastructure in place at lower frequencies, implementing 5G on the current infrastructure will take both time, and hardware. And, there are frequency challenges, particularly in spectrum availability.
I recently said that companies are willing to invest in future return on investment but they need to be fairly secure in that it will occur. Of late, that one case that has been fading is consumer 5G. As the industry comes around to realizing that, they are beginning to look elsewhere for near-term 5G opportunity. I have also discussed that opportunity exists in the enterprise and fixed wireless first.
While the survey I referred to earlier may not have a lot of credibility, it does echo that the business case for 5G is real and exists, IF… the enterprise can see benefits from it. 5G better deliver improved worker productivity and customer service, costs savings, better analytics, faster and better connectivity, new platforms — Internet of everything/Everyone (IoX), and more.
However, this is not an unimpeded conduit. There are a couple of speed bumps still on the horizon. One is availability. Unlike the consumer, businesses will not accept marginal conditions. Either it will work for them or it will not. That does mean everything has to be 5G all of a sudden. What it does mean is that the apps that the business will need have to work, and work well (such as 5G networks for manufacturing plants).
Another is that, again, unlike consumers, businesses are not all that eager to simply move from old to new just because. There are tons of legacy and application-specific technologies that businesses employ, which are still fully functional and relative. They are not going to pitch them just because new technologies are available (unless the new technologies will, significantly, improve their business case). Therefore, there must be the ability to integrate legacy platforms in any new platform, going forward, for some time, yet.
Even carriers are seeing the 5G reality case. Recent comments from their leaders include statements like:
These were posted, recently, in a ZDNet article. It seems even carriers are realizing that the consumer 5G dream exists, but the reality is that the real use cases are going to be all about the enterprise out of the gate.
Now, why all the noise around the enterprise all of a sudden? It seems that the industry is coming around to realizing that the consumer is not all that impressed by just faster speed and streaming video. Data suggests that, for the time being, 4G and 4G+ is doing a pretty good job. As well, there is uncertainty around costs.
The enterprise, on the other hand, can scale. So bringing on 5G in stages is something the enterprise will embrace. It is much more willing to pay with an eye to the future. The consumer, not so much. They are fickle. They will not, necessarily, shell out a bunch of extra bucks for marginal improvement now, without definable certainty of improvement later. Consumer behavior has also changed. Consumers are stretching out smartphone purchases, questioning the price for premium ratio and looking toward other devices.
Now, whether this pans out, as the diatribe is suggesting, remains to be seen. The bar for the enterprise is not as high as for the consumer when it comes to expectations. But it does expect to get what it pays for. That is a good thing. And that the industry is realizing this may just be the ticket, if done well, to getting 5G moving.