5G is coming – but not quite as fast as we thought

5G, or 5th generation cellular technology, has been held up as the holy grail of mobile communications.

Offering more than just increased speed – although it will typically deliver over 200 mbps (megabytes per second) compared to 60 mbps for 4G – the other benefits include less latency or ‘lag’, and a much greater capacity. The result is the ability to connect thousands of internet-enabled devices simultaneously and seamlessly, delivering data almost instantaneously.

It is forecast to have an enormous effect on our lives, impacting almost every market. 5G will be crucial in areas such as automation, AI, machine learning, virtualisation and cloud computing.

Some examples include:

  • In healthcare, remote surgery via robotic surgeons and patient data uploaded in real-time
  • In manufacturing, the driver for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ with the use of drones and virtual reality (VR) headsets
  • In automotive, driverless cars and traffic flow control
  • In retail, the use of augmented reality (AR) to try goods remotely
  • In entertainment, thousands of devices connected for socially driven AR/VR games

It will be a true game-changer that enterprises and providers have been preparing for over the course of several years.

But now the implementation in the UK will be delayed

Fears about security have led the government to announce a U-turn on the involvement of Chinese company Huawei in the UK’s 5G networks. Ministers have announced that Huawei must be removed from the networks by 2027 and experts predict this will result in a delay to implementation by up to three years. The reason is that the network providers have been gearing up for 5G for years and already have Huawei technology embedded in their systems.

Work by research company Assembly shows an economic hit of £6.8bn from the delay in deployment, with the UK falling behind the rest of Europe.

Hardest hit will be small towns and rural areas, as the telecoms giants focus on urban centres of commerce as a priority.

The consequences for business

The effect of the delay for telecoms companies is obviously huge. And the large enterprises that have built long-term strategies based on the availability of 5G are likely to suffer competitive disadvantages.

But will the 5G delay impact dramatically on the SMEs that make up 99+% of British commerce. Yes, there will be a hit to the economy as the applications outlined above are sourced elsewhere. But on a day to day basis, within each company? Quite honestly, we don’t think so, not massively. It’s almost a case of what you don’t have, you don’t miss.

There may be a competitive issue if you are up against other European companies who do have access to the efficiencies that 5G brings. Certainly, if you are looking to deal with China, the whole souring of relationships over the Huawei issue could be stumbling block.

There will be day-to-day irritations of not having access to 5G enabled phones or super-high-speed internet – but then rural locations have been dealing with this irritation for decades. And we will catch up – we have to, as the government will want to minimise the chance of us falling behind competitively and causing further damage to the economy.


What do you think? Was the implementation of 5G important for your organisation and will you suffer as a result of the delay? Do let us know by commenting below.

Nigel Chambers

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