Nearly quarter of a century ago I was a journalist in Reading. I was asked to cover a story about a company which was pioneering computer technology. In their offices, they showed me a computer screen where they could download information, seemingly from the ether. This was my first ever experience of the internet in 1995.
Back then, it was said that the world wide web would change our lives – which in many ways it has. However, compared to what is coming around the corner with 5G technology, this was a mere amuse bouche.
For over 40 years, there has been some form of mobile telecommunications network. And roughly every ten years, a new generation comes along.
So-called 1G came into being in 1978 and was the basis for the first cellular phones. The network was analogue and simply allowed people to phone one another from incredibly expensive and weight mobile phones.
Fast forward to 1991 and we see the emergence of 2G. This was the first use of digital technology and enabled the sending of texts and pictures. This coincided with smaller, cheaper handsets being produced, making mobile communications more accessible.
Just seven years later we saw the roll-out of 3G and with it, we saw the emergence of a technology which would enable connection to wifi networks, access to email and of course, the ability to surf the web away from a computer. Slow to catch on and with lots of mutterings in the press about the obscene cost of the licences, it wasn’t until the creation of the iPhone in 2007 that we saw all possibilities around digital and mobile communications. At the same time, this was really the era of the Blackberry – a machine which started the trend for ‘always on’ working with its ability to act as a mobile email and calendar device.
2008 saw the advent of 4G. This coincided with the production of ever more sophisticated and cheaper smartphone technology, following in the wake of the iPhone. Faster speeds, greater bandwidth, a move towards apps, HD television, video conferencing and gaming all benefited from this new generation of communications.
Fast forward to 2020 and we’ll see the next (enormous) leap forward with the introduction of 5G. Some say this will be as seismic as the development of electricity or the invention of the car. As well as lightning fast download and upload speeds, 5G brings a whole cornucopia of new possibilities – connected houses, cars and factories are just the start. The Internet of Things will take connectiveness to a new level which means we can move beyond first the humble PC, then the phone into a world where millions of devices can communicate with one another.
We’ve already seen the emergence of driverless cars and trucks, the use of drone technology and the application of Blockchain. These will become part of the mainstream in the same way that Windows made computing accessible to the masses. Virtual reality, augmented reality, connected humans (yes, some gamers are already implanting chips under their skin), remote healthcare and immersive training will all become possible with the advent of this technology.
So, if you are a company with long term ambitions or you want to stay competitive in this new environment, it is important you plan ahead and adapt your business accordingly.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you and your leadership team understand fully what 5G offers?
- How could you harness the opportunities?
- Who will you need to recruit into your business with the necessary skills and knowledge to transform your systems and processes?
- How can you upskill your existing staff to make full use of this new technology?
- What is the digital knowledge of your competitors?
- Are your communications systems robust enough to cope with the new technology?
We know that treading water in business is not a viable option. With a metaphorical tsunami of new tech coming your way, can you really afford to do nothing?