Business success is often linked to understanding and deploying the right technologies. From artificial intelligence and automation to line of business applications, it can be difficult to cut through the hype to understand which technologies are truly innovative and impactful. Once that is figured out, identifying the right moment to get on board is also crucial. Do it too early, and you spend energy without results. However, do it too late, and you will be left behind — a place that some may argue is where those just embracing cloud computing would now fall.

5G is one of the most hyped technologies in edge computing and cloud data management. For good reason: It offers 10 to 100 times the bandwidth of 4G-LTE, which is important for applications that require transmission of large amounts of data and very small latency in the order of milliseconds. This means that on a 5G cellular network, you could download hours of video in a few seconds, and video gamers would benefit from almost no lag between moving their thumb and a character changing directions on screen. 

But is now the time to deploy 5G in a business setting? The simple answer: Not yet. The reasons behind it, however, are a bit more complex.


What’s Holding 5G Back?

Let’s look at two of the most immediate use cases for 5G in the enterprise.

The first use case is fixed internet connectivity. Instead of getting internet connections using cable, copper wires/ADSL, or satellite, branch offices could potentially use 5G to get fixed internet connectivity without needing physical cables and wires. While this approach is ideal on the surface, it is not without its issues. There are concerns that 5G is too sensitive to be a reliable fixed connectivity option. For example, rain or a truck driving by could affect the connection quality and cause users inside a large building to not get signal.

Longer term, 5G will enable next-gen applications. IoT, augmented reality/virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, advanced robotics, and other new applications generate huge amounts of disposable data that requires extremely tight response times. Service providers are scrambling to deploy edge data centers to support those needs, and 5G could solve a lot of the fast, low-latency, last-mile connections and bring compute power closer to the end user. But the chicken-egg question remains: Is 5G rollout slow because adoption of those applications is slow or the other way around?


Next Steps for Enterprises and Service Providers

For enterprises, it is probably too early to get too deep into 5G, unless there are already specific applications that are limited by speed/latency of existing connectivity technologies. The focus today should be on understanding the technology at a high level and identifying the use cases that are likely to benefit first. Then, watch the market for 5G availability for those areas of interest in order to act at the right moment.

Service providers should act sooner. Those offering services that can benefit from the speed and low latency of 5G should start testing the technology now, as trials are being rolled out in some areas. 5G will provide fat, fast pipes for the data plane, and it’s important to make sure the management plane is robust enough to ensure availability.

With edge infrastructure growing in complexity, having strong remote management capabilities is critical to ensuring availability, and reliability is crucial to providing a good user experience. The time to act on 5G may not be right now, but opportunity is getting ready to knock. The key is to be ready to act when it will be most impactful — and seize that moment before the competition does or the market passes by.