In the past two years, digital engagement accelerated at an unprecedented speed worldwide. As we discussed in our blog post entitled ‘Pandemic Pivot’, the leading companies found it necessary to quickly complement traditional face-to-face experiences with digital ones to thrive in the ongoing pandemic. In fact, 80% of companies believe their core business models should be digitized to remain economically viable.

The next normal will continue to see technological transformation across industries. 5G — the 5th generation mobile network — is designed to connect everyone and everything together, including machines or devices. There are high expectations for what 5G can deliver, such as faster download speeds, autonomous vehicles, and smart homes. With speeds of 10 Gbps, 5G has the potential to become a powerful business tool. Realistically, however, using 5G can pose challenges along the way. These include:

High costs for building and buying

Building a 5G network will be expensive, based on research from Greensill. The cost of rolling out and implementing 5G telecommunications technology across all sectors of the economy worldwide will cost around $2.7 trillion, with an estimated $1 trillion dedicated to investments in infrastructure upgrades alone. Companies rushing to assimilate 5G into their everyday products and industrial processes will likely face higher carrier charges.

On a positive note, these expenses can help overcome latency issues in 4G and LTE, improving call quality. Call centers, in particular, can benefit greatly from 5G technology to handle massive amounts of calls at the same time with improved call quality, which can lead to fewer dropped calls and positive customer experiences. The integration of 5G can also capture customer data and trends with artificial intelligence, so these massive investments can eventually lead to massive gains.

Additional cybersecurity risks

Insights from Nokia on ZDNet reveal that the increased interconnectivity brought on by 5G networks can be a challenge for organizations currently struggling with their cybersecurity. While open standards in the industry should be adhered to drive competition, businesses must independently contend with both standard and sophisticated security threats. The expansion of bandwidth can create additional avenues for attack, which may be dangerous if you’re using 5G to facilitate real-time video monitoring or remote controlling of heavy equipment like cranes.

Privacy risks will also increase, as existing 5G technologies can track nearby people using their phones or even eavesdrop on live phone calls. This is radically changing how people are now trained, both at university and in-house, to deal with cyber threats. As Maryville University’s degree program for cybersecurity professionals notes, it’s critical for IT experts to upskill in courses on cybersecurity auditing, data security, risk metrics and analysis, cloud migration, and other topics to future-proof a business’s cybersecurity system. By creating dynamic cybersecurity solutions, companies won’t be entirely reliant on individual employees guarding their own data.

Connection congestion and interference

5G networks operate in clusters of small cells, but the coverage range for these is low. Operators would need more of them spread over shorter distances, plus massive MIMO towers to bridge said clusters. It’s likely that in urban areas, the lack of usable cell sites and limited reach will slow down initial 5G adoption. A study from Rutgers University also found that signal interference is still a problem. 5G “leakage” — unintended radiation from the transmitter to an adjacent frequency band or channel — can send signals into weather sensors, causing weather prediction errors. It’s still too early to determine the extent of 5G’s signal interference.

Until the 5G network matures and develops detailed models, better antenna technology, and a dynamic reallocation of spectrum resources, carriers will continue to use lower-frequency bands. Engineers will have to first design the 5G deployment intelligently before businesses can maximize 5G’s power.

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