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Navigating challenges to a 5G future

Organizations are starting to prepare for the 5G revolution and all the benefits it will unleash. Here are some challenges they’re likely to encounter before they do.

Apr. 9, 2019 | By Don MacLeod

Overhead view of futuristic 5G neon city

We’re at the brink of a technology revolution. The 5G train is on its way and there’s no stopping it—or telling what it’ll do for individuals, businesses and society at large. 5G is an access technology that’ll enable faster speeds, improved bandwidth, lower latency and better reliability. And the eventual benefits are incalculable and unfathomable, as the technology will bleed into every aspect of life. From conveniences like smart meters or instantaneous movie downloads, to energy efficient lighting and trash removal and safety enhancements in cities, to immersive experiences on physical and virtual college campuses—5G will be truly transformative. But navigating a 5G future won’t be easy. We asked business and IT leaders to share their biggest concerns. Here's what they said.

Challenge #1: Outdated technology

Seventy-two percent believe 5G will accelerate the depreciation of their technology landscape. To truly realize and capitalize on the value of 5G, organizations need to upgrade existing infrastructure. New devices and antennas are required by 5G, and replacing incompatible equipment will be expensive.

But the timeline is longer than everyone is projecting. Although it’s being implemented in some areas as early as 2019, it’ll be much longer before most people are able to realize the extent of its application. We haven’t even finished 4G and now we’re switching to 5G. And the GSMA projects that 4G will account for more than half of connections worldwide still, by 2025. Even so, from an IT perspective, today’s infrastructure and equipment will not be prepared to support the speed of data in a 5G future.

What is 5G? The next mobile revolution is here. Find out what you need to know. Click here to read our FAQ.

Challenge #2: Risk and security

While I believe 5G will be more secure than 4G, it’s the services that ride on top of 5G, such as an app or IoT, that create vulnerability. WiFi will be more hackable. And the majority of leaders (65 percent) agree that 5G adds to privacy concerns—as it will have the bandwidth to collect huge, incomprehensible amounts of data. Maintaining data protection will be no small task. The onus will lie on the carriers to incorporate robust end-point security standards for identifying and removing malware, creating pretested firewalls, monitoring domain name system (DNS) activities, and establishing strong data integrity assurances and better identity management systems.

Challenges #3: Skills gap

Only one in 10 leaders are very confident in their workforces’ 5G competencies. This creates a lot of room for growth and opportunity across an array of skill areas for IT professionals.

Network finding, network mobility and functionality are all becoming more complex. And the volume of access points in a 5G network will be substantially more than we’ve ever seen. Services that ride on top of the 5G network are going to add a layer of complexity—it’s going to be its own ecosystem. In fact, a whole new marketplace will open, and IoT will be a huge piece of it. This is going to demand new skills for network engineering, operations and deployment. There’s already a shortage of technical talent as it is—5G is only going to expand the skills gap, and qualified telecom professionals will be in high demand in every corner of the nation.

Making 5G operational on a worldwide basis will require active involvement from highly trained software and data network engineers. In the mobile application development space, there will be a need for developers and testers who can collaborate to design truly 5G-compatible applications. Telecommunications organizations will need people who can focus on network deployment, solving for small cell deployment in locations that pose difficulties from an infrastructure standpoint.

Having the right skill sets is imperative to staying ahead of the curve. But organizations will be better positioned if they can leverage a full-stack technology solutions provider with 5G expertise they can lend to the implementation.

A 5G future is coming. We surveyed more than 300 IT leaders to understand their thoughts and attitudes. Learn about how they’re preparing for 5G and what it could mean for your business.


Don MacLeod is a practice director for TEKsystems’ Communications vertical. He is an accomplished leader with over 20 years of domestic and international management experience in wireless operations. Read Don's take on 5G and remote work at Broadband World News.