Written by Julie Song | Oct 22, 2020

President at Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF), responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company globally.

 As mobile carriers continue consumer 5G network rollouts across the United States, they are looking for ways to approach the enterprise and showcase the value it delivers. As I’ve written previously, 5G mmWave is known for delivering the low latency and fast speeds people demand from the new wireless generation, but it will be challenging to provision across the country due to the short distances the frequency bands travel. In this sense, 5G for enterprises will spring from specific use cases, and mobile carriers understand they must adapt to meet this changing landscape.

At the recent 5G World Virtual Trade Show, Swisscom, Ciena and other panelists discussed the need for mobile carriers to transition from network operators into IT companies when trying to engage with enterprises and meet their specific needs. This shift marks a truly transformative moment for telecom: It’s the first time businesses will build their wireless networks into core operations, transcending communications. Wireless is becoming the linchpin for handling supply chain management, enabling emerging technologies that will automate or greatly speed processes with applications such as wearable technology, secure and instant data transfer, and much more. There are quite a few broad enterprise needs that support an immediate demand for the advanced connectivity only 5G can provide.

Telecommunication companies are already exploring how 5G wireless connectivity will impact core operations in smart office spaces. Legacy 4G/LTE networks are a way to provide great coverage to office workers, whereas 5G will redefine how they work. A prime example of this is Steelcase and Ericsson’s partnership to deploy a private 5G network in the WorkLife Center in Atlanta. The implementation is aimed at showcasing how 5G wireless drastically enhances and improves workflows by easily managing and collecting data from a variety of connected devices.

The potential of IoT and big data to achieve goals in the office existed long before 5G networks, but it’s the high speeds and low latency that allow these technologies to come together for meaningful applications such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, augmented/virtual reality, robotics and edge computing.

Supply Chain And Logistics Management

E-commerce has become an important part of the way people buy and sell goods, and 5G’s low latency can provide solutions to common supply chain challenges that will enable the instant gratification we want from online purchasing. This is especially important because e-commerce growth has skyrocketed due to the global health crisis. For example, e-grocery is expected to grow 40% this year. This places immense pressure and expectations on improving the supply chain and getting a better handle on inventory management from ports to warehouses, retailers and package delivery.

For transportation logistics, 5G can improve everything from tracking and visibility of shipments, optimizing trucking routes, improving vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, locating lost cargo and providing transparency and accuracy for product delivery updates. For inventory and warehouse management, sensors and real-time data transfer will offer far more visibility tracking products within a facility and can communicate the needs from the distribution centers, retailers and delivery services to get a better handle on supply and demand. This all works toward bringing the supply chain closer to consumers and businesses to support the growth of e-commerce.

Realizing 5G Aspirations Indoors

Building out nationwide 5G macro networks is essential to advancing the Fourth Industrial Fevolution, but it’s not always enough. 5G is no use to enterprises unless they can bring that connectivity indoors — something that’s harder to achieve than the previous LTE generation due to the limited distance of mmWave frequency bands. While LTE has challenges penetrating buildings, mmWave simply isn’t capable of it without additional infrastructure. Fortunately, enterprises won’t necessarily need blanket coverage for 5G and can point coverage at specific areas of their facilities where it’s needed.

For example, a factory may want to have strong 5G coverage to power its autonomous robotic workforces but doesn’t need that connectivity to extend to other areas of the facility, such as administration. To effectively bring 5G indoors, a collection of wireless technologies including distributed antenna systems (DAS), small cells and repeaters are required to deliver 5G capacity throughout buildings, while also still supporting LTE connectivity in areas that may not require 5G initially.

These are a few examples of many possible cases where 5G is more than just a new wireless generation for enterprises. It will represent an entirely new way of functioning and the ability to unlock new capabilities that weren’t possible before. It has transitioned from a supporting role to a leading role in today’s increasingly data-driven economy and will continue to be an enabler of innovation moving forward.