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Beyond the hype: Preparing for 5G (if you need it at all)

Preparing for 5G

5G’s upside is great, but the downside lies in its misunderstanding and misalignment with business objectives.

We’ve all heard the incredible promises associated with 5G – lightning-fast speeds, reduced latency and greater capacity, which will help to support an array of transformative new applications, changing the way we work and live. It’s easy to imagine a world enabled by 5G, with autonomous cars, smart cities and intelligent factories. Yet despite the belief that “5G is here,” the benefits have yet to materialize for businesses. So how can we separate the 5G hype from reality?

It’s true that similar to other wide-ranging technologies, 5G will have a long-lasting impact on the way we innovate – eventually. However, the idea that 5G will magically translate into enormous benefits for businesses overnight is just not realistic. Moreover, believing that it can be universally applied to every type of business can be risky, leading business leaders to invest in costly solutions that may not generate returns for years, if ever.

While the version of 5G available today provides faster speeds, it does not yet have the infrastructure to support the expected benefits necessary for industry transformations, such as extreme low latency. However, despite the nominal incremental gains to be realized right now, the belief persists that massive 5G changes are imminent, either leading companies to go all-in today or else take a “wait-and-see” approach, thinking the utopian 5G experience will be available in short order. The danger here is these businesses are tying their current DX plans to misfit underlying technologies and, possibly worse, they may wait to start their digital transformation until 5G is fully deployed.

Without understanding what’s available today, and how you can take advantage of it, the hype around 5G can easily lead to misalignment with business objectives and place companies in an unfavorable competitive position. Here are three tips to help businesses select the right 5G strategy – or even decide if 5G is really necessary right now.

  • Audit your network infrastructure. Before investing in 5G, understand whether your devices and network infrastructure are built to handle changes that faster speeds will bring, such as increases in traffic, faster upload/download speeds, etc.
  • Align DX strategies with 5G capabilities. By waiting until 5G is fully here, you may deprive yourself of realizing some of the benefits now. Don’t put off your digital transformative for later, but double check that your goals are achievable by mapping them against existing 5G capabilities and its expected roadmap.
  • Strengthen your security posture. Businesses won’t be the only ones leveraging 5G – so will cyber attackers. Working with your digital security team to anticipate how 5G will enable new attacks will save you the headache of a data breach down the road.

5G as it stands today isn’t prepared to meet the incredible hype that has preceded it. But that does not mean it’s all smoke and mirrors. The 5G transformation will come.

The good news is that there are some 5G benefits to be realized today, but they won’t all be captured immediately, and not by every type of business and industry. By grounding your expectations in reality and the projected 5G roadmap, you can begin to make strategic investments that will help move your business forward, both today and in the future.

This article was originally featured in CIO.

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