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5G – what is it and what disruption can we expect?

There's been a lot of buzz around the adoption of 5G, or to give it its full moniker the fifth generation of cellular network. If we boil it down to its most simple form, 5G is a generation of data transfer that promises better upload and download speeds, wider coverage and more reliable connections.

At its core, 5G is about making better use of the radio spectrum and allowing for the binding together of multiple standards. It's often thought of as a network of networks due to its allowance for network slicing, a technique that maximises the flexibility of the network itself.

Network slicing, the real potential of 5G

Whilst many people will invariably focus on the connectivity and speed of 5G, the real magic is in the potential for new delivery mechanisms, in particular the ability to ‘slice’ the network.

Network slicing is new and innovative but the concept is as old as communications. In technical terms, it's the creation of a virtual network architecture, or to think of it more simply it's what Ceefax and Teletext were to TV signals. Different segments of the broadcast channel are used for specific and separate purposes.

While that description may sound dry and boring to those of us who aren't geeks, the potential is huge.

Take, for example, autonomous cars, Using network slicing a virtual network can be created for a ‘Vehicle to anything network’, that requires a low latency but not a high throughput. In contrast, a streaming network, for example video, would require high throughout but be susceptible to low latency (aka buffering).

Network slicing means both requirements can be fulfilled using virtual networks, but running on the same physical infrastructure.

In the long term, this means that new products can be brought to market far more quickly, as specific parts of products can be launched using specialist parts of the network, allowing companies to develop against real user needs.


“Run comrade, the old world is behind you.”

— Anonymous graffiti from Paris '68'


How 5G will affect businesses

All of this may seem technically impressive but not immediately obvious in how it affects an existing business. That’s why it's worth looking back at the last major change to connectivity.

The leap from WAP to 3G brought us the web as we know it to phones. 4G went one step further and completely disrupted industries.

It's not overegging to say that when 4G came into existence everything changed. The introduction of faster data meant that real time data became the norm and, almost overnight, entire industries were disrupted, or even wiped out forever.

Uber changed the face of transport and alongside Deliveroo it kickstarted the ‘gig economy’ and put the mobile at the heart of commerce.

These platforms would not have succeeded if it hadn't been for the speed increase that was allowed via 4G: the ability to real time locate users, send map data and have a consistent reliable network.

Fundamentally, an upgrade of this level is not simply about faster loading webpages, or a quicker way of accessing social media. It's about the potential that opens up in spaces that weren't there before.

Unlike 4G and previous generations of technology, 5G is very different. It is not just about radio. In fact, it stands across the full network from mobile access to cloud core, from software-defined networking to all forms of backhaul, front haul, IP routing, fixed networks, software, and more.

Rajeev Suri

The potential of 5G


If we consider how 3G-4G disrupted industries like takeaway food (Deliveroo), transport (Uber), television and film (Netflix), banking (Monzo) and photography (Instagram), then 5G has the potential to do this to a far bigger, and far more important segment. Commerce.

The potential of 5G to remove the need for a physical store almost completely from the customer journey is huge. Through AR/VR we can potentially reach a place where the store is everywhere.

If we think back to network slicing, 5G will allow us to prioritise a slice of the network to AR/VR and 3D models. These things are incredibly processor heavy and use a lot of data, and 5G will unlock their potential.

Moreover 5G opens up the domain of the physical. A grand network for the Internet of Things (IOT) becomes simple, broadcast on another network slice. Even small devices are easy to connect to the web, on reliable, low energy networks.

It's also highly likely that 5G will completely transform work, opening up the potential for the ‘holographic call’, the ability to work machinery from anywhere, and smart, automated transport.


The Apple problem

As with everything though there's a catch. And, as is often the case, the catch has an important brand name attached to it.


Apple's decision to not include 5G in their latest iPhone 11 means that the roll out will ultimately be delayed. Technology that should, in theory, be available now, will see a softer roll out happen over a long period of time.


Why act now?

So what does this mean for your business? And why should you care right now? Well it's already possible to quickly prototype tools that will become the norm in the future. AR/VR shopping can be workshopped and trialed with real users using technologies such Vuforia, Unity and Amazon's own cloud streaming service for AR/VR Sumerian.
Brand languages can be developed for this new space, and insights into users’ behaviours can be learnt ahead of the disruption that is to come.

No business wants to end like Kodak, a company that knew all about digital photos but let the patent slip, only to see their entire USP decimated by not adopting it.

At Kin + Carta Connect we can help you define what these futures look like. We can prototype with you and workshop them for you, provide the insight, strategy and creative technology to place your products and services ahead of your competitors.

Plan for a 5G future now. Contact us now using the form below.

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