Regional CTO – North and West Europe, Fujitsu, and member of the IET’s Digital Panel
The biggest change between 4G and 5G is the type of customers that will use them. Where 4G brought mobile broadband and high-speed data to the end-user consumers on the street, 5G is specifically designed for the business needs of the 21st century.
Through its unique set of capabilities – from extremely high speed and low delay connections to ultra-reliable applications and high scalability, 5G brings mobile capabilities into the hands of the enterprise and critical national services and infrastructure.
Where 4G was often about apps and small-scale solutions that made consumers’ lives easier, 5G is about productivity and economic growth on a much larger scale.
Improved productivity and sustainability
The 5G technology platform and ecosystem of providers is set to improve productivity and sustainability in a variety of different ways.
Examples include high reliability applications for healthcare that allow monitoring and transmission of patient data directly to hospitals from ambulances.
Other solutions outline advanced safety applications to mitigate road incidents and improve traffic efficiency. This might be by enabling communication between cars, pedestrians and the road infrastructure itself.
For our visions of 5G to become a reality, however, a few things need to happen.
For example, each country across the world will apply the platform in unique ways – the USA are using it to deliver high-speed internet and reduce the need for fibre installation across a large country.
European countries, including the UK, are looking at its role in manufacturing, healthcare, transport and support for SMEs’ economic development.
This has led to the explosion of possible 5G use cases and some confusion about how realistic these concepts really are.
In addition, many of these solutions will need tailoring specifically for the industries in question. How then, do we take the vision of 5G and turn it into a reality?
The need for integration
Firstly, a key aspect of 5G use cases relies on deep integration of connectivity platforms into enterprise solutions.
Until now, networks have been treated to a greater or lesser extent as being completely separate within enterprise ICT organisations.
Often, the skillsets required to create reliable and robust networks are different to those required to ensure the Information Technology (IT) is functioning, so there was no need for crossover.
Increasingly, however, the differentiation between networks and software is disappearing, and 5G will accelerate that process.
Secondly, many of the 5G solutions proposed require deep integration into traditional enterprise systems in order to be fully realised.
For example, when 5G is combined with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in a factory, that installation will not be fully usable until workers have the data and information seamlessly integrated into their existing workflow systems.
In order to deliver on the vision of integrated ambulance assessments of patient injuries and hospital admissions, numerous enterprise systems need to be integrated, and, in many cases, data will need to be transmitted between different companies.
This can only be achieved by creating a trusted ecosystem of actors and integrated data management.
In order to deliver on the promise of 5G, therefore, new relationships need to be developed between mobile operators, integrators and solution providers for delivery of trusted integration and solutions.