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Transitioning from Gigabit LTE to 5G

The much-hyped next generation of mobile broadband may not be quite ready yet, but businesses should start preparing now for the coming change.

When we compare our lives today with the world of a decade ago, it’s easy to feel like we’ve been in the age of true mobility for a while. After all, people now use their mobile devices for entertainment, work, navigation, communication, fitness tracking and countless other things. But, in reality, we may be just getting started.

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5G is the next generation of mobile broadband, and it will eventually replace consumers’ and corporations’ 4G LTE connections. With 5G, users will see exponentially faster download and upload speeds, with drastic reductions in latency. This will open up a new world of possibilities, and it’s easy to understand why the technology is the subject of such breathless coverage in the press.

At the moment, the reality of 5G doesn’t match this hype, but that’s only because the infrastructure isn’t in place yet. Most serious industry observers predict that it will take at least a year or two for wireless carriers to build out 5G networks capable of supporting widescale use. But once that infrastructure is in place, it truly will change the world — and businesses should begin preparing today.

The Promise of 5G Networking

Once 5G is pervasive, it will complete the shift to an almost entirely wireless world. The speeds will be so much faster than previous mobile broadband standards that the technology will allow organizations to support the sorts of workflows that currently require an Ethernet connection.

The potential use cases are endless, but 5G could support applications such as remote surgery, smart monitoring for utilities, autonomous vehicles, widespread Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, smart surveillance cameras and drones. There’s also hope that 5G will finally bring virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications into the mainstream. For instance, a municipal public works department might one day use an AR application, supported by a 5G connection, to enable remote diagnostics for problems with drainage pipes or other infrastructure.

In addition to spawning new applications, 5G will significantly improve existing 4G business applications. And many businesses will also likely use 5G as a wireless failover, rather than investing in multiple wired connections to support their corporate networks.

Laying the Groundwork for Advanced Wireless Broadband

The big problem with 5G, for now, is that it’s simply not available for most businesses as a realistic option. Only about a half-dozen mobile devices even support the standard, and wireless carriers made infrastructure investments in small geographic pockets. Even in countries that are significantly ahead of the U.S. with regard to 5G (such as South Korea), adoption rates hover at about 10 percent. Building out the infrastructure across the entire U.S. could take up to five years or more.

That doesn’t mean businesses can’t do anything to prepare today. Organizations should look at the sorts of use cases they eventually hope to support with 5G and work to support those with Gigabit LTE for the time being. Gigabit LTE is sufficient for most applications in use today, including solid failover and support for IoT devices and sensors. A municipality might use Gigabit LTE to support its current smart cities initiatives, for example, and then adopt new and improved applications once 5G is up and running.

As with all IT investments, these decisions should come down to businesses’ individual use cases. Most organizations won’t need 5G yet, but by starting with Gigabit LTE, businesses can lay the groundwork for 5G and put themselves in position to immediately take advantage of the new standard once it’s widely available.