5G has a messaging problem. More than half of 1,800 business executives surveyed by Accenture in 2019 said they believed there were "very few" things 5G could do that 4G couldn't already.
But the potential of 5G technology could be enormous and a major boon to businesses, tech leaders told Business Insider.
Between its built-in security features and ability to cover long distances, businesses across a variety of industries — from manufacturing to farming — stand to benefit.
Here, four tech leaders explore 5G's potential to boost their businesses and explain where they see their industries headed.
Marga Hoek, author of 'Tech for Good'
Hoek is a three-time tech CEO and the author of the book "Tech for Good." She believes 5G holds immense promise for healthcare.
"One of the greatest opportunities that the widespread adoption of the 5G network brings is opening opportunities for the advancement and accessibility of extended-reality technology in healthcare," she told BI.
XR's use in healthcare and medical services, Hoek said, is being delayed everywhere — from the operating room to medical classrooms, from mental health to pain management — because of network limitations. But "with the expansion of 5G technology, the XR healthcare market can expand its reach as the network grows," she said.
However, development won't be equal everywhere in the world, she added.
"With the growth of the 5G network, we can expect to see the XR healthcare market expand," Hoek said. She added that nearly 20 countries around the globe still lacked 4G connectivity but could be brought up to date using 5G. "The expansion of the 5G network would help us reach these countries and would, in terms of healthcare, offer advances in medical training, decrease complications in surgery, and reduce resource costs," she said.
Matt Cranfield, founder of Your Simple Hosting
Cranfield, an IT and tech expert and the founder of the web-hosting company Your Simple Hosting, is beginning to adopt 5G within his business and sees it as the boost his industry needs.
"5G has been the 'next big thing' already for a couple of years," he told BI. "At Your Simple Hosting, we are trying to make 5G work for us because it's a whole new level of speed that will elevate the processes enormously."
He sees a great deal of need for 5G among his clients, especially those who must send and receive data almost instantly.
He described one incident that brought the need for 5G into sharp focus: A client had to get their data in sync across several offices around the world and managed to do that with Your Simple Hosting's help, but it would have been much easier with 5G.
"That experience really hit home about how much we depend on solid, fast connections," he said. "I'm particularly looking forward to incorporating 5G into the mix at Your Simple Hosting. The goal is to improve our services in a way that would astound our consumers."
One way he intends to do that is to pair 5G's speedy data-transfer capabilities with cloud data storage to move large files faster than with a traditional connection.
Andy Lindsell, chief technology officer at Babble
Lindsell heads up the tech team at the cloud-solutions provider Babble, which advises Britain's small and midsize businesses on using 5G to compete with larger companies.
He's seen how 5G can revolutionize the customer-engagement experience.
"In the retail sector, where every second counts, 5G's real-time processing of mass datasets enables retailers to delve into footfall analytics and make data-driven decisions to enhance the in-store experience," he said.
5G could underpin advanced video analytics and artificial-intelligence algorithms analyzing customer-movement patterns to help optimize store layouts. The tech could even help stores develop personalized promotions based on customers' individual preferences, Lindsell said.
The chief technology officer also foresees doing similar work for real-estate and travel agents, both of whom could offer immersive virtual-reality experiences around homes and tourist destinations using 5G-powered headsets.
Parm Sandhu, vice president of enterprise 5G products and services at NTT Ltd.
Sandhu, the vice president of enterprise 5G products and services at NTT Ltd., a network-connectivity provider, sees huge growth potential in manufacturing, transport logistics, and healthcare with 5G.
"5G, and specifically private 5G, is acting as a catalyst that is driving customers toward change," he said. "It's not like we haven't had cellular or wireless-communications technologies in the past, but today we're seeing that 5G has caused a perfect-storm event, where customers who have been struggling with their Industry 4.0 digital-transformation projects, often due to lack of adequate communications technology, are now suddenly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."
What were previously stalled digital transformations have been energized by the reliable connectivity inherent in private 5G connections. For instance, Schneider Electric has turned its factory in Lexington, Kentucky, into the US's first smart factory, using 5G provided by NTT. "Currently, the site showcases IoT connectivity, edge analytics, and predictive analytics to drive sustainability and energy efficiency on a private 5G network," Sandhu said.
Alongside Schneider Electric, NTT has customers including Frankfurt Airport (Europe's largest private 5G network) and the city of Las Vegas (the largest private 5G network in the US) signing up to develop private 5G and edge-computing capabilities.
"NTT is not looking at private 5G in isolation but rather as part of a complete edge strategy," he said.
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