The journey of 5G begins with small steps

The world is holding its breath as countries prepare for the rollout of 5G networks. In fact, Singapore has announced they’re planning to roll out two 5G networks as early as next year. This follows the city-state’s announcement to set aside SG$40 million to build an inclusive and 5G Innovation ecosystem to maintain a competitive edge in connectivity. The enhanced speed and flexible connectivity offered by 5G networks means new opportunities and approaches to businesses will soon be crafted for various industries.

A survey by IDC found that nearly 80% of communications service providers in Asia-Pacific expect 5G to expand revenue opportunities with enterprise customers. Furthermore, these next-generation mobile networks will hasten the progression of smart-city solutions.

With new use cases being projected, like vehicle-to-vehicle communication with autonomous vehicles, the remote control of heavy machinery, or improvements in telemedicine, the implementation of 5G will radically change the way industries operate.

New Network Capabilities, New Potentials

With the global number of connected devices expected to reach 25 billion by 2021, the current wireless infrastructure doesn’t carry the capacity to accommodate a large number of devices and ensure an exchange of information without lags.

5G combines high-speed connectivity, extremely low latency, and ubiquitous coverage, and will pave the way for the arrival of new use cases alongside the evolving technological landscape. For example, 5G lays the foundation for realizing the full potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), a necessary initiative in developing smart cities. Soon, the high density of data being transmitted from the sensors on Orchard Road, traffic lights in neighborhoods, and moving vehicles on the expressway can be supported with ease.

Another feature unique to 5G is network slicing, which allows the wider network to be split into smaller, dedicated sections to handle massive data loads. Network slicing is a form of virtualization allowing different logical networks to run alongside a shared physical network infrastructure.

To thrive in this changing environment, organizations will have to strategically define and scope out new growth areas to pursue. This includes major upgrades to their current infrastructures as majority of 5G networking is done virtually, posing a challenge to legacy systems provisioned before 4G LTE.

IT leaders should also look to software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined storage (SDS) solutions, which can both streamline their current network operations preparing from the adoption of 5G.

5G Won’t Be a Walk in the Park

While 5G trials and tests have been started by operators in Singapore, experts and industry professionals predict there might be a long road to complete 5G coverage in the city. Some have argued holding trials and building infrastructure for a system not fully in place might be counterintuitive.

Organizations can help combat this implementing private 5G wireless networks, and deploying it where it matters most for the business, such as logistics or customer support, where volume and speed of data are at its peak. This way, IT leaders can conduct an area-specific assessment of 5G, and further evaluate the value and efficiency it brings to the business.

This adoption process allows IT teams to make gradual changes, so network engineers can familiarize themselves on how to map future networks and determine when to deploy monitoring solutions to oversee the growth of their 5G deployments.

Beyond incremental changes, privatizing networks also gives businesses added interoperability and scalability that can serve them well in as they mature into their 5G networks. Only when these organizations are fully confident of a full-fledged deployment can they lay down and the connect the dots between initial deployments with the rest of the business.

Getting There With Deliberate and Consistent Steps

While this methodology of branching out 5G infrastructure could give early adopters a valuable head start in 5G, it comes at the cost of more manpower and expertise needed to keep the network in top condition at all times.

Against the backdrop of Singapore’s talent shortage, it’s also important to upskill existing IT professionals and engineers so they can navigate the challenges of a software-defined, virtualized 5G network. To prepare for this, Singapore’s Public Service Division has started to roll out curriculum aimed at enhancing the workforce’s digital literacy and adaptability to changes. Organizations will also benefit from an ecosystem of global network partners and vendors to tap into. Partners may already be well-versed with the developmental challenges of 5G, having designed and prepared their own business offerings.

They can also provide IT teams with clarity on any issues that might arise, and co-design solutions to overcome them with creativity and innovation. To work alongside partners and vendors, businesses will need to start early, take calculated and deliberate steps across the network, and make incremental improvements over riskier investments.

Ultimately, to harness the full potential of 5G, Singapore needs to start out small in its transition to 5G-ready network infrastructure. Great things aren’t done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together with a thorough and rigorous business plan.