Manufacturing companies have a big appetite for 5G.
That was the top-line takeaway from a 2019 survey conducted by Capgemini Research Institute, which explored how next-gen networks will benefit industrial operations.
After surveying around 800 manufacturing and “asset-intensive” companies across the world, researchers found that 75% of respondents believe 5G will unlock their digital transformation within five years. In terms of importance, 5G ranked second only to cloud (at 84%) among nine key technology and innovation enablers. What’s more, these companies are willing to pay a premium to get it.
“We concur that the long-term impact of 5G is huge,” says Karl Bjurstrom, EVP of Capgemini Invent. “We think there’s money to be made now.” While Bjurstrom concedes that perspectives around 5G have ranged from overhyped to skeptical, he thinks that ultimately it will be transformative for enterprise companies.
“It will be a kind of foundational fabric that will enable future use cases and the strategies that companies are looking for as they connect people, businesses and society,” he says.
Here’s why many businesses are eager for 5G, how they’ll benefit from its rollout and Bjurstrom’s predictions on when next-gen networks will start changing the business world.
A Transformation Over Time
“What 4G did for us as consumers, 5G will have the same impact on enterprises,” says Bjurstrom. “The long-term promise should not be underestimated.” That’s to say: Considering people primarily used pre-4G mobile phones to talk and text only, 5G could revolutionize entire industries.
But there’s nuance to that promise, specifically around 5G’s time to market. Bjurstrom explains that the impact of 5G on enterprises will manifest in a variety of ways over time—with distinct effects unfolding in the short-, mid- and long-term futures.
For Early Adopters, Operations Could Transform
Initially for businesses, the opportunities exist around setting up private 5G networks—or what Bjurstrom calls “private cellular” networks. It’s common to hear about manufacturers being early adopters of these systems. In these use cases, everything on a factory floor, for example, can be IoT-enabled. But manufacturing is just one type of business that’s well-suited to this early adoption of 5G, and it’s not the industry that makes it a good candidate, but the layout of its operations.
“Think about places where you have a confined space where you want to have better control and better efficiency and flexibility,” Bjurstrom says. “That could be a mining company, a manufacturer, it could also be potentially an aircraft, a boat, a cruise line, perhaps.”
In the mining company example, Bjurstrom imagines a local 5G network deploying IoT into the field—moving toward a total digital transformation down the road. “Maybe it doesn’t drive immense gains in the beginning, but the future could be an almost autonomous mine,” he says.
Engage In The Partnership Ecosystem
Industrial companies are positioned to become early adopters of these 5G opportunities, and, in turn, models for how other businesses can follow suit. In fact, says Bjurstrom, industrial companies have a higher willingness to pay for next-gen networks than what many telecom operators—also surveyed in Capgemini’s study—even realize.
“There’s a lot of appetite if you have the right sort of use cases defined for them and you engage in the right way,” he says.
But one of the first lessons those businesses that are ready to invest in 5G will need to learn is that being ready for the next-gen networks requires more than just dollars. “You want to start engaging the ecosystem,” says Bjurstrom. “There’s going to be a lot of new partnerships for many companies that they didn’t have, and they didn’t need to be exposed to before.”
That’s something every company should be thinking about now. Businesses that choose to wait, he warns, risk missing the boat both in terms of building those partnership ecosystems and testing, rolling out and managing their 5G-enabled technology.
Bjurstrom says that some of his most forward-leaning clients are already setting those partnerships in motion.
Innovations Today Mark Sweeping Changes Ahead
Some businesses may experience equally dramatic changes, but not quite as soon. Bjurstrom describes the mid-term future of 5G as between three and five years away.
“That’s where we start seeing a lot of the enterprise use cases take place,” he says. “And we also have a lot of the in-home 5G use cases where we might start seeing some of the inherent, fixed-line services becoming even more 5G-enabled.”
That transition will naturally present new opportunities for businesses to offer 5G-enabled services, but will also create challenges for those industries experiencing 5G disruption—those fixed-line service providers like broadband and cable companies, for instance.
Over the long term—which Bjurstrom estimates to be eight to 10 years away—society will experience the full promise of 5G: autonomous vehicles, remote surgeries, virtual reality classrooms and more.
“Those kinds of futuristic use cases, they’re not that far away,” he says. “That’s when things really start changing in our society and for our enterprises.”
By the time those big, visible societal changes emerge, more incremental innovations like digital factory floors and autonomous energy extraction could already be widespread. Given how soon that could be, it’s no wonder Capgemini has the same message for all businesses, regardless of where their own opportunities lie along the timeline of 5G evolution: Start thinking, planning and engaging now.
Article originally published by Forbes
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