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At the Mobile World Congress 2019 conference, many attendees are excited about everything related to next-generation 5G wireless networks. Not only do these networks promise to deliver several orders of magnitude of increased network bandwidth, but a wide range of real-time applications employing augmented and virtual reality technologies will become feasible to deploy for the first time.

Telecommunications carriers generally envision rolling these services alongside their existing 4G wireless services. The expectation is that business customers will be willing to pay a premium for 5G services. That’s a critical issue for carriers because the cost of building out the infrastructure to deliver 5G services is measured in billions of dollars.

A global survey of 1,800 business and technology executives published this week by Accenture suggests that, despite all the hype surrounding 5G most business, IT executives are either unclear or downright skeptical of the benefits being promised. Over half of the respondents said there are “very few” things that 5G will enable them to do that they cannot already do with 4G networks. Fewer than two in five executives (37 percent) expect 5G to bring a “revolutionary” shift in speed and capacity, the survey finds.

Despite this, the executives surveyed do see value in 5G networks. A full 70 percent said they believe that 5G applications will give them a competitive edge. More than two in five executives also expect 5G to have a “significant” impact on speed (46 percent) and capacity (42 percent). 

Most of the technology community understands what it potentially means to be able to deliver wireless networking capabilities to applications such as autonomous vehicles that need to process data in under 20 milliseconds. All kinds of applications need to able to interact with data sources residing at the network edge become possible, simply because network latency largely gets removed from the application performance equation.

More work to be done

The Accenture survey makes it apparent that carriers have done a poor job of communicating the actual business benefits this type of wireless networking advance represents. Just as concerning is that the Accenture survey shows carriers don’t fully appreciate what will be required to build applications that take advantage of 5G networks. A full 60 percent of the executives surveyed said carriers lack knowledge about the challenges their vertical industry faces. The survey finds that the top obstacles to employing 5G networks include upfront investments (36 percent), security (32 percent), and employee update (32 percent).

Most troubling of all, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of executives said they need help imagining the future possibilities and use cases of 5G. Obviously, there’s still plenty of time to address this issue. Commercial deployments of 5G networking services are not expected to be widely available until 2020. Regardless, there will be a significant gap between when those services are made available and when applications, designed from the ground up to take advantage of the services, get built and deployed.

Managed service providers (MSPs) have a unique opportunity to fill that gap. It is apparent that carriers don’t really know how to communicate with business executives. MSPs tend to be a lot closer to their customers than carriers. The opportunity for MSPs now is to start identifying the new application use cases for 5G that have the biggest potential business impact for businesses much sooner than later.

Photo: Tippa Patt / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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