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Is Your Digital Transformation 5G Ready?


5G is upon us as every major telecom company is in a mad dash to bring 5G near you. In fact, Verizon just announced that 5G will be deployed across the greater Chicago area by April of 2019. But, this new platform brings more than just a speed upgrade from 4G. This is a major technology upgrade for consumers seeking enhanced speed and bandwidth. Now the real question is, are enterprises ready to take advantage of the new 5G enhancements? And, just as important, are their enterprise applications ready for 5G?

This latest 5G (Fifth generation) of cellular mobile communications comes packed with a host of performance advantages, such as higher data rate than previous cellular networks–up to 10 Gbit/s, which is much faster than current cable internet, and 100 times faster than previous 4G LTE cellular technology, that equates to lower network latency (i.e., faster response time) below 1ms in some cases compared to 30-70ms for 4G. Higher frequency radio waves (in or near the millimeter wave) provider higher data rates. At the same time, 5G uses wider frequency channels to communicate with more wireless devices and this translates into the ability to transmit more data (bits) per second.

This performance upgrade comes with a cost—mainly short range. So called millimeter waves are absorbed by atmospheric gases that have a shorter range than microwaves; therefore, 5G cells are the size of a city block as opposed to cells of previous cellular networks which could be many kilometers. These microwaves cannot travel through building walls, thus requiring multiple, smaller antennas to cover a cell area.

With 5G communication is truly in real-time. Networked applications can now react much faster than us humans. Average human reaction time to visual stimulus is 250ms, 170ms for audio stimulus, and 150ms for touch stimulus. Sub 10ms network latencies allow autonomous machines, devices to sense and actuate orders magnitudes faster than any human can process them. Truly autonomous machines will detect, process, and react faster than ever before. In addition, the higher speed and increased bandwidth will bring down costs, opening the door to everything wireless. Soon, IoT will become Internet of Everything.

This is exciting times for smart factories and Industry 4.0. What previously was not possible due to hardwired connection requirements is becoming possible via barrage of new wireless technologies like 5G, Wi-Fi 6, CBRS, etc. In the very near future (if not today), enterprises have big decisions to make in terms of physical connectivity. A great deal of innovations and improvements in how we connect is providing us an opportunity to make strategic plans on how we utilize new wireless capabilities, which in turn will influence how a business operates. As long as the value derived from data is greater than the cost of connecting devices to the internet, there is a business case to get connected. Computer architecture and software design needs to change fundamentally to support big data by default. So, the question you need to ask yourself is, are you ready to take advantage of what 5G has to offer? And, are your enterprise applications ready for 5G?

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