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The Enterprise Transition to 5G

With the dawn of 5G upon us, “business as usual” doesn’t apply to wireless enterprise planning. That’s because the next generation of wireless promises to deliver significant changes to nearly every industry.

It also promises its fair share of issues. Here’s a closer look at some of the more prominent challenges the enterprise space faces because of 5G.

1. Recognizing 5G’s Power

The February 27, 1995, edition of Newsweek contains what is arguably the greatest misfire in the history of technological prognostications.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s the edition containing astronomer and computer expert Clifford Stoll’s impression of the internet. Stoll thought it was a fad, “one big ocean of unedited data” that would fall short of such lofty promises as selling us books and airline tickets online.

Ironic, then, that more than 20 years later, a Google inquiry into Stoll returns “Clifford Stoll internet” as the top suggested search. (To be fair, Stoll wasn’t alone in dismissing the internet .)

5G fever is at such a fever pitch that it’s almost understandable that naysayers aren’t that difficult to locate. They call it “ridiculously overhyped,” “massively overhyped,” and “overblown.” Fortunately, there are enough of them to avoid a Clifford Stoll-like reckoning.

Even just a cursory examination belies an impact that is almost impossible to gauge right now, other than to say it will be “huge.”

To help quantify the size of 5G’s canvas, it’s useful to look at something called NAICS codes. Federal statistical agencies use the North American Industry Classification System (hence NAICS) to classify businesses for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing data about the U.S. economy.

According to this system, the six largest NAICS code categories top 1.3 million establishments each.

Industry # of Businesses
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 2,088,551
Agriculture giant John Deere purchased a Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence startup in part to help increase farming production by the anticipated 70% necessary to feed the 9 billion people on the planet by 2050.
Mining 1,879,717
Mining is a $500 billion industry whose productivity and profit increasingly relies upon automation that needs reliable mobile connectivity.
Utilities 1,723,297
A revolution in how people live in their cities is already unfolding. Transportation, city services such as refuse collection and recycling, education, entertainment, and more will be connected in a way designed to increase efficiency and quality of life. (Where all of that is already happening in Oslo, Norway .)
Construction 1,654,607
5G’s high speed will enable real-time editing of drawings and plans, reducing delays and costs and driving up profits. It will also empower remote machine control and automation.
Manufacturing 1,471,258
Controlling production line robotics  (including their movements), monitoring and reconfiguring them remotely, accessing real-time analysis: there may be no industry more impacted by 5G than manufacturing. Considering the industry’s annual $2 trillion sway over the U.S. economy, that’s certain to be an impact felt by everyone.
Wholesale Trade 1,370,571
This $8.2 billion industry includes companies involved in wholesaling merchandise  (typically without transforming it in any way) and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise.

Those nearly 10.2 million businesses in wildly different industries (worth several trillion dollars combined) that share something in common: a strong, possibly industry-redefining influence by 5G.

Even if the promise of 5G can’t be delivered to all of those businesses in all of those industries — even if it can only deliver to a quarter of them — that’s still more than 2.5 million businesses representing trillions of dollars of value.

And remember: these are only the top six industries. There’s more than double that amount, representing an enormous portion of the country’s GDP and many millions of additional businesses, which we have not examined here.

The canvas upon which 5G technology can create is massive, and it’s safety net nearly as big. Even a 5G “miss” will still redefine the U.S. economy for generations to come.

And it isn’t going to miss. That means companies need to be ready for it. But how does one make plans for an infrastructure that has yet to be established?

2. Planning for 5G … without 5G

5G is a wave of change few businesses can afford to wait out. Because the infrastructure support it requires isn’t ready for prime time, the future holds enough unknowns that a cautious approach to enterprise wireless planning is warranted.

A business anticipating 5G-powered changes will be well-served to use this time to establish implementation and capitalization strategies. One way that could be achieved is by expanding internal processes to bridge current technical capabilities and those promised by 5G.

Current Process Modified Process
  1. Establish business goals and technical requirements.
  1. Establish business goals and technical requirements:
    1. Considering current generation wireless capabilities
    2. Considering 5G wireless capabilities
  1. Identify the features and functions required to fulfill step 1.
  1. Identify the features and functions required to fulfill steps 1a. and 1b.
  1. Conduct a network-readiness assessment.
  1. Determine the viability of synchronizing the project with the 5G rollout
    1. Forecast date of project completion
    2. Anticipate the status of the 5G network by date of project completion
    3. Identify length of 5G shortfall/overlap
  1. Develop a project plan.
  1. Calculate potential:
    1. Revenue impact
    2. Operations impact
    3. Market impact

The modifications required will vary based on the company’s core business. For example, a professional services firm’s revised process will look different than the manufacturing division of a multinational conglomerate.

This approach allows for the influence of emergent strategies — unplanned strategies that arise in response to unexpected opportunities and challenges — at a time in the IT world when such strategies may be more vital than ever.

 

A depiction of emergent strategies’ possible position in an intended strategy.

A fully hardware-agnostic approach to establishing a procedural foundation at this point in 5G’s network development likely isn’t practical right now. It’s still possible, however, to develop an approach that helps a company pivot swiftly should 5G — or a competitor, or market forces — take an unexpected turn. The ability to execute a swift pivot is going to become crucial to retaining relevance throughout and well into this transition.

Another crucial element to 5G’s hold on the enterprise: security.

3. Securing 5G

A wireless network is only as secure as its weakest link. 5G’s youth and reliance upon older technologies suggest weak links will roll out alongside it in the coming years.

Protocols

Among that older technology: established protocols such as HTTP and TLS . That means 5G comes with readymade concerns about security. Vulnerabilities uncovered within those protocols could lead to swiftly implemented exploits that affect mobile networks.

Just as with other cyber threat scenarios, combating exploits requires careful planning and preparation. That might include :

  • Establishing a cyber threat team responsible for being aware of new threats/exploits
  • Identifying mission-critical services and the resources required to maintain them
  • Creating a rapid/emergency response plan

Ideally, you’ll never use that last item. In the event of a widespread and crippling 5G-related cyberattack on your organization in particular or, say, mobile networks in general, having that plan at the ready may be the difference between recovering within a week, a month … or longer.

Points of entry

As the number of devices on a network increases, so, too, do its points of entry. (How many points of entry? Propelled by the internet of things, there may eventually be as many as seven trillion  — yes, trillion — connected devices.) That’s why manufacturer and vendor reliability will play an outsized role on the 5G enterprise network. Every step along your network’s ecosystem must be secure. CIO.com  recommends the following steps:

  1. Building security requirements into contracts
  2. Conducting regular security audits
  3. Demand a System and Organization Controls (SOC) report for cybersecurity; a SOC report framework for auditing cyber risk management is relatively new but does exist
  4. Schedule access and security reviews

A 5G Tomorrow, Today at CTC Technologies

Released in 2007, Apple’s iPhone  is only a little over 10 years old. In that time, it has irrevocably changed the telecommunications, computer, movie & TV, photography, publishing, gaming, and health industries. But change hit the bulk of those industries years ago, arguably by the time the iPhone 3GS rolled out in 2009. That’s a lot of change in two years. It’s the sort of change 5G will usher in, and the one for which today’s enterprises must prepare.

Based in the U.S., CTC Technologies, Inc. is an IT solutions provider capable of stepping in to support your 5G and other IT infrastructure needs. We’re available immediately to help your company improve network performance, mitigate risk and operate efficiently. Contact us today for a free consultation on 5G and what it means for your unique needs, goals, and circumstances.