5G Presents Immense Innovation Potential

5G promises to usher in not just new use cases in every industry but also new business models.

Some of the most relevant use cases across industries, such as those enabled by AR/VR and massive IoT, fit right into improving customer experience and digital transformation. As a change agent, 5G is among the most important technological enablers in this decade and the next. Therefore, investing and taking a deep look at 5G is critical at this time.

5G Will Develop Rapidly Through 2020 But Is Still Developing Nonetheless

The 5G wireless arms race is fueled by the immense potential, so technology development is intense. Almost all current 5G announcements are regional siloed pilots and enhancements upon 4G LTA rather than actual “at-scale” 5G standalone deployments. Manufacturers and operators have been aggressively pushing their 5G strategies. However, many challenges and uncertainties are still open: cost of network, monetization of use cases, regulatory challenges and, most importantly, the lack of mature standards.

2018-19 Was A Major Leap In 5G Standards, But Beware The Hype

Through the 3GPP standards body, the industry had agreed to complete the non-standalone (NSA) implementation of 5G New Radio by December 2017, and this facilitated large-scale trials based on the specifications.

Various sources cite numerous estimates about 5G. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), commercial 5G networks are expected to start deployment after 2020. By 2025, the GSM Association (GSMA) expects 5G connections to reach 1.1 billion, which is estimated to be about 12 percent of total mobile connections. One Ericsson study estimates that 5G-enabled industry digitalization revenues for ICT players will be US$1.3 trillion in 2026. Still, current 5G reality is far from the profound expectations established by its proponents.

Structuring Your 5G Thinking With Forrester

At Forrester, we have a deep bench of experts who are closely monitoring the developments and hype around 5G.

Here is a simple framework:

  1. First, understand the background, technology, and the physical and business challenges behind practical implementations of 5G to cut through the hype. Principal Analyst Dan Bieler covers these topics deeply on a series of recent reports and blog posts targeted at CIOs.
  1. There is a lot of talk about coverage in rural areas — in fact, bridging the digital divide is often touted to be a big plus of 5G. However, every early investment and the motivation behind it seem to suggest that at least until 5G achieves deployment scale, the digital divide may get worse. Check out Glenn O’Donnell’s blog post that analyzes the realities of the advent of 5G coverage in the US.
  1. Further, thoroughly assess your own 5G needs. Many current use cases probably do not need 5G. Hence, clearly understanding and nailing your use cases is an important vision to have. Michele Pelino and Andre Kindness at Forrester recently published a report that details how to cut through the hype to assess your need for 5G-enabled IoT use cases.
  1. Understand how 5G will transform your network operations, impact apps, and customer experience. Andre Kindness examines this in detail in an upcoming report.
  1. Finally, ask the right questions to your service provider on 5G timelines, cost, strategy, coverage, and implementation to understand what you can expect and to plan your investments in the coming months. My report on checking the pulse of 5G from your service providers will be handy as a guide to frame that conversation and think through a framework for investing in 5G in the near term.