What 5G means for business

The 5G network will offer revolutionary speed and much more

by Robert Boyanovsky, Vice President of Enterprise Mobility, AT&T Business

People from some of the world’s most influential businesses visit our Executive Briefing Center in Dallas every day. The center is a place for us to showcase our latest innovations that can impact companies across a wide variety of industries.

When I get the chance to talk to these customers, the conversation often turns to 5G. These are the most frequently asked questions:   

  • “When is it coming?"   
  • “How fast is it, really?”

One of the first questions is almost always about speed. No question, 5G will be fast. Ultrafast. We’ve already been putting that speed on display in our mmWave fixed wireless trials in markets across the U.S. As of July 2018, we’ve added even more cities to the mix.

5G will offer businesses so much more than just faster speeds, though.

When added to existing network architectures and combined with other next-generation technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and other Edge-to-Edge capabilities, 5G will alter the very DNA of our user experience in dramatic, exciting ways – from retail to financial services, transportation to manufacturing, to healthcare and beyond.

Experiences of the future

We expect 5G to unlock experiences of the future like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), automated cars, telemedicine and connected buildings in smart city solutions.

Imagine if firemen could see the layout of the building in their helmets to find those in need much faster. That’s something tomorrow’s 5G could enable. In some cases, it could be truly life-saving. In addition to speed, the following characteristics make the future 5G network special:   

  • Massive device connectivity – We expect it will help handle and manage the “massive IoT explosion.” IDC predicts more than 30 billion devices will be connected to networks globally by 2020. 
  • Ultra-reliability – This is especially helpful for industries that use robotics, like healthcare and manufacturing. A 5G network will be one you can depend on.   
  • Ultra-low latency – Latency is the amount time that passes between when you tell your technology to do something and when it does it. The industry expectation for 5G latency is less than 5 milliseconds – it probably took you about 4,000 times longer to read this sentence.   
  • Better capacity and coverage – More connection points in a smaller area – along with using small cells and unlicensed spectrum – will improve capacity. That means a better customer experience.

Consider what kind of difference these benefits could make. We could know how likely it is for a football player to have a concussion, based on the data from the force of an impact. Or in manufacturing, the capabilities of 5G will save time and money by helping to identify machine defects sooner.

Industry-specific applications

One of the biggest tasks we now have is to educate companies across all industries on the expected capabilities of 5G, and what those will mean for them. That’s when the light bulb goes on.

Once we start talking to business leaders about their industry-specific applications and services, they realize the benefits. Adding 5G technologies to existing network architectures will not only allow businesses to modernize – it will disrupt entire industries.

Here are some examples how:

  • Healthcare: As healthcare organizations continue to innovate and digitize operations, the amount of data usage and transfer continues to increase. 5G is expected to help hospitals and other health providers meet these growing demands, and help with things such as the quick transmission of large files, the expansion of telemedicine, and the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI). Learn more about how 5G is transforming the healthcare industry.
  • Financial Services: 5G is poised to help banks and other finance companies deliver new, innovative services, such as wearable technology, secure and instant data transfer, or financial recommendation software through AI. The low latency, high data capacity and reliability of forthcoming networks will help create a new platform for the delivery of services – virtually wherever the customer is. Learn more about how 5G will enhance the finance industry.
  • Retail: Innovative trends and personalization are reshaping what many people expect now when entering a store or building, and retail companies need a network that can handle the amount of data now required. Adding 5G technology to an existing network architecture can help power new offerings that many retailers are beginning to provide, such as VR and AR, futuristic dressing rooms, and personalized improvements to the hospitality industry. Learn more about how 5G will boost the retail industry.
  • Manufacturing: The factories of the future – smart factories – will be filled with sensors, each monitoring different aspects of the working environment. They’ll also feature connected tools, using information ranging from location to accelerometer data to understand where and how they’re being used, to guide workers accordingly. 5G’s high capacity, wireless flexibility and low-latency performance make it a natural choice to support manufacturers in these environments. Learn more about how 5G will revolutionize manufacturing.
  • Transportation: 5G technology has the potential to provide increased visibility and control over transportation systems. The low latency, high capacity, and reliability will enhance how goods and people travel. Once added to existing network architectures, 5G is expected to help unify network protocols, improve safety and reliability, and provide end-to-end connectivity across our cities and beyond. Learn more about how 5G will impact the transportation industry.

Leading the evolution

There are so many possibilities. What excites me most are the ones we haven’t yet imagined.

At AT&T, we’re leading the evolution to 5G. We’re always evolving our network and looking forward to what’s next. The work we’re doing on our network today is laying the foundation for 5G tomorrow.