Q&A

What 5G promises for the enterprise

A conversation with Accenture’s Peters Suh

enterprise 5G

For years, we’ve heard about 5G’s potential to impact dozens of industries by delivering mountains of data at supersonic speeds. For consumers, that will mean immersive VR entertainment, sports, and gaming (and, eventually, self-driving cars). For governments, it will mean smarter cities powered by IoT.

What will it mean for business workflows? Most executives aren’t quite sure; 72% of them say they need help to imagine the potential uses of 5G enterprise solutions, according to a recent Accenture survey of 1,800 global business leaders.

It’s early days, but the clock is ticking. To date, all four major U.S. cellular carriers have rolled out some type of 5G service to consumers and enterprise. To find out how companies can extract the most value from 5G technology, Workflow chatted with Peters Suh, a managing director and communications industry lead at Accenture, ahead of his Knowledge 2020 presentation.

Why are executives having difficulty envisioning how 5G will influence business operations and strategy?

People read the headlines, and the headlines say 5G is all about speed. Everyone wants to know, ‘How will this help me beyond faster network speeds?’ I don’t think the value of what 5G can do has been clearly articulated to the executive level for them to really grasp how it can change their business. Speed is obviously something that companies are very focused on, but latency and capacity might be even more valuable.

[Read also: Inside Swisscom’s move to the cloud]

Where might CIOs find the most value from 5G’s low latency and high capacity?

Network security, for one. With faster networks, you can add more security protocols and safeguards. With older cellular solutions, there’s always been a tradeoff in that the more security you put in, the more it slows down your network. With 5G, you’ll be able to put in the security controls that you need without losing speed or capacity.

Another benefit from a CIO perspective is better access to your network from remote locations. If remote work is the new normal, or even if you’re managing operations in rural locations where there may not be adequate WiFi or broadband, you’ll be able to access the systems running in your campus over public 5G networks. That network will be as robust as your campus network, and offer the same response time and latency. Think of what that will mean in fields like telemedicine, field service or emergency response.

Do you see 5G having any benefit in terms of how teams collaborate?

Many more people are using video conferencing now, and finding delays due to latency. Interactions are not as fast or as seamless as you’d like. With 5G, if you’re collaborating with a dispersed team, you’ll be able to reduce that significantly. 5G will be like you’re talking in the same room. You’re not stepping over each other.

People talk about, “how do you replicate a whiteboard remotely?” With 5G, you’ll be able to run multiple screens and devices while people are communicating in real time. Having extraordinarily low latency is going to be very important. Already you’re seeing things like Netflix Party, everyone is messaging about a show while it’s running. Imagine having everybody’s comments and reactions in real time while you’re collaborating in a virtual conference room.

As a CIO looking to take advantage of 5G, what is the best way to get access to the right services?

There’s a lot of interest in private 5G networks right now. From a CIO perspective, it’s appealing to have their own private network that they can control within their own campus environment. In fact, there’s an unlicensed spectrum called a CBRS spectrum that will allow you to do a private network solution and offer VPN connections with low latency and a lot of network capacity.

Watch Peters Suh’s full presentation at Knowledge 2020.