The next generation of mobile wireless connectivity is just a few weeks away from officially arriving in the UK, and with it, promises that it will revolutionise how consumers and businesses stay connected.
But for some, it's about much more than faster, more reliable mobile services. It's increasingly predicted that 5G will also be an attractive option for enterprise users looking to overhaul their wireless networks to create a network that's fit for the data-intensive, multi-device environment of the coming years.
5G not just for mobile connectivity
Many people may believe that 5G is a technology aimed primarily at wide-scale mobile networks, but this will not be the case in reality. For example, it's likely that on a smaller scale, many consumers and small businesses will turn to the technology to secure access to connectivity speeds that would not be possible with fixed-line broadband - especially in areas where provision of fast, full fibre solutions is still poor, such as rural communities.
Indeed, a recent survey by Ericsson found eight out of ten consumers would consider a 5G option to either supplement or completely replace their existing fixed connectivity solution.
In the UK, consumer and business users will be able to connect to public 5G networks very soon. Vodafone, for instance, recently confirmed its commercial 5G network will go live from July 3rd. As well as mobile devices, the firm will offer 5G routers that can turn any home or small business into a 5G-based location, to provide a faster alternative to a Wi-Fi router hooked up to a fixed-line service.
But while connecting to public 5G may be a useful option for smaller locations, many larger enterprises are likely to go one step further and embrace private 5G networks that are dedicated to them.
Why adopt private 5G?
Private 5G involves the creation of a dedicated network within a specific area offering security, unified connectivity and optimised services as a replacement for a traditional LAN.
In addition to offering a fully wireless network without the risk of slowdown caused by congestion or the need for bulky wired Ethernet equipment, a 5G network offers a range of other advantages.
One of the biggest advantages is 'network slicing', which uses 5G's high bandwidth to allow operators to create multiple virtual networks, which can then be customised and optimised for the specific service and traffic patterns the user has in mind.
Private 5G can also offer users more control over their wireless environment, from assigning priorities to certain devices for traffic types to locking down security, while the low latency of the technology will be critical for firms looking to run activities that rely on real-time communication between devices.
Where will private 5G prove useful?
One key application where 5G may present an attractive alternative to Wi-Fi or other wireless technology is in the manufacturing sector. In the coming years, firms in this industry are set to become increasingly reliant on automation through the use of robotics and Internet of Things sensors, and these will need fast, effective wireless connectivity to work effectively, which does not come with the risk of slowdown as the number of devices increases.
Indeed, Vodafone notes: "By adopting a private 5G network, manufacturers will be able to connect industrial robots and other devices faster and more securely. As machines, tools, parts and people become perfectly synced, 5G can help to raise production and facilitate mass customisation to ultimately deliver a better customer experience."
However, this is far from the only scenario where private 5G could prove useful. Navin Vohra, Commscope's vice-president for service provider sales in Asia-Pacific, told Computer Weekly that many large enterprise campuses will look to deploy 5G as firms aim to boost the performance and quality of corporate network connections.
He added that private 5G could also allow organisations with very specific needs to access new technologies. For example, hospitals will require extremely low-latency solutions if they are to conduct activities like remote surgeries, which can be achieved with network slicing.
Use cases such as these will become increasingly common as demand for solutions to cope with the growing data volumes and large number of mobile and IoT devices connected to enterprise networks increase. Therefore, private 5G could become a standard option for large firms in the coming years.