5G and Business in Africa/Middle East: Practicality and Opportunities
Productivity and effective communication, the holy grail for developing businesses that scale. In the quest for market share dominance and excellent product-market fit, organizations have deployed numerous strategies to ensure that they remain competitive in the business landscape by regularly pushing superior consumer-captivating products to capture as much value as possible but rarely think about the underlying infrastructure that support this mission. Broadband cellular networks are one of those underlying infrastructures.
The film industry has depicted over the years exaggerated outcomes of what could happen if we lost access to the entry point of our global village; mass hysteria, devolution and the willingness to sacrifice anything/anyone for a stable and fast connection to the internet. Even though those depicted outcomes are overkill narrations (I think), there are still moments in reality where we get to feel a glimpse of what that frustration would be like when we encounter situations like buffering videos when watching videos or listening to music online, cancelled or double payments due to unstable networks, poor voice and video calls or delays in communications and these situations — depending on the business you are involved in — can make or break customer experience.
As technological advancements ought to, 5G networks are predicted to offer higher connectivity experiences than its 4G predecessor with it’s major offerings focused on Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for faster connections and faster data transfers especially in areas known for slow traffic like stadiums and cities, Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) for wireless mission critical communications systems used in organizations that require uninterrupted and large data exchanges, and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) that would be used to connect numerous devices to push advancements in IoT and Machine-to-Machine applications.
How will 5G affect the business landscape?
The role 5G plays in enhancing productivity efforts and seamless communication is the reason why more organizations need to keep up with its development. Its increased traffic capacity and network efficiency allows it to support experiences in cloud services, multiplayer cloud gaming, shopping with augmented reality, real-time video translation, collaboration and so much more. With the impact broadband cellular networks already have on consumer behavior and business operations, increasing its efficiency is only going to enhance the way businesses create, deliver and capture value.
Even though the technology is still a few years of R&D away from being absolute, 5G is expected to drive global growth that generates $13.1 trillion dollars of global economic output, and creates 22.8 million new jobs by 2035 through its use in the sales of goods and services in a wide range of industries and also in the value network that supports its distribution.
The following are examples of 5G applications in business:
- 5G in Agriculture
5G supports the adoption of IoT in precision farming for autonomous and data-driven processes. It increases the reliability and efficiency of sensors that collect data on field operations and supports drones that provide coverage of entire farms to monitor and adjust operations where necessary.
- 5G in Healthcare
It increases the efforts of telemedicine to ensure medical practitioners can efficiently evaluate their patients remotely, it allows smart devices to monitor health conditions and process the data collected quickly to give accurate diagnosis in real-time. It also supports critical infrastructure for surgical operations.
- 5G in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
In an industry that relies heavily on data, 5G provides the technology required to efficiently manage inventory, orders, and shipping route data. It enhances real time asset tracking, cyber security, and supports autonomous equipment.
- 5G in Transportation
5G supports the technology of the very popular and well awaited self-driving cars. It assists this industry in enhancing communications and signalling processes and of course providing real time road mapping.
- 5G in Business
It enhances on-device processing and intelligence to increase productivity with collaboration and communication tools.
- 5G in eCommerce
A lot of customers have high expectations when it comes to spending their money these days, they expect hyper-personalization and seamless transitions across channels and 5G helps businesses provide that experience efficiently. It also gives rooms for mobile immersive virtual shopping experiences with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
- 5G in Manufacturing
5G supports flexible manufacturing; with its low latency, high bandwidths and connectivity, it enhances real time supply chain visibility, dynamic factory reconfigurability, ultra-reliable low latency wireless systems, and predictive maintenance.
- 5G in Delivery
5G supports the potential of large-scale commercial drone delivery. It also enhances data management systems.
- 5G in Entertainment
With high bandwidths and low latency, immersive entertainment will be efficient and that enhances connectivity and social sharing interactions with AR, VR and 360° videos.
- 5G in Sustainability
With more companies understanding the importance of sustainability, 5G and its applications are believed to be able to help reduce carbon emissions by supporting the build of smarter, greener infrastructure.
Since 5G technology is relatively new, huge investments have to be made to create the infrastructure architecture that will be needed for this tech to work seamlessly. Due to the nature of the radio frequencies it operates on, according to Wiki and Scientific American, the 5G network will need to be supported by multiple antennas the size of pizza boxes every 100m in public spaces and every 50m in homes and offices to work efficiently which raises the concern of digital accessibility and divide. The adoption of 5G tech by the masses in urban areas will lead to a decline in Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) providing components that will support old generational network devices, because 4G–and lower generation–devices don’t have the components required to support 5G and what this means for the average person in rural areas is that, the devices that they might have would be rendered inoperative and the costs of replacing them would be high. This means that there will also be an increase in the economic divide
One major highlight of the advancement of 5G tech is the possible convergence of multiple networking functions to achieve cost, power, and complexity reductions. 5G predecessors have tried converging with Wi-Fi technology in the past and failed but with the significant improvements in 5G cellular performance specifications, combined with migration from Distributed Radio Access Network (D-RAN) to Cloud- or Centralized-RAN (C-RAN) and rollout of cellular small cells there is a potential for that gap to be reduced. Radio convergence could result in sharing ranging from the aggregation of cellular and Wi-Fi channels to the use of a single silicon device for multiple radio access technologies.
According to Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) and Statistica, 5G networks are predicted to have more than 1.7 billion subscribers and account for 25% of the worldwide mobile technology market by 2025. Even though a majority of its application in Africa and the Middle East is in the telecommunications industry, we can’t wait to see how the application of this technology creates more connected and sustainable systems.
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