Major American service providers are still in the process of rolling out their 5G networks, but if enterprises want to take advantage of the nascent 5G ecosystem, the time to act is now, according to telecom equipment maker Ericsson.
Already, American service providers reach more than 300 million people in the low band, Ericsson notes. They'll reach 200 million in the mid-band and parts of more than 100 city/ operator combinations with mmWave technology by the year's end. As of the third quarter of this year, 523 5G smartphones had been announced. By next year, there will be an estimated 122 million 5G subscriptions in North America.
"There is strong reason to believe that 2022 will be a pivotal time for American enterprises to take advantage of 5G opportunities as part of a horizontal business foundation," Ericsson says in a new paper published ahead of its 5G Things Summit.
The paper lays out six ways US enterprises can immediately take advantage of 5G networks. These are opportunities, Ericsson noted, that are ready for implementation at scale across a variety of industries:
The list starts with an obvious step: Companies should migrate their entire workforces to 5G-powered smartphones, ensuring employees can take full advantage of the modern communication environment and new productivity applications.
"Considering the average lifespan of enterprise phones is 2.52 years, failure to upgrade to 5G smartphones in 2022 will restrict you to older technology until 2025," the report says.
Leveraging 5G mobile hotspots and fixed wireless, companies can help accommodate dispersed workforces, including employees outside the fiber footprint.
Only 16.4% of Americans had fiber-based broadband as of 2020, Ericsson notes. Yet nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 42% of the American workforce was working remotely. More than 36 million of these employees will still be fully remote in 2025.
A growing number of professionals are constantly on the move -- sales representatives, business consultants or hospitality executives, to name a few. Ericsson notes that 60% of the total US workforce (93.5 million Americans) is expected to be deskless by 2024.
Correspondingly, sales of cellular-enabled PCs in 2020 increased by 70% to 10.1 million, with 4G accounting for 97% of the market. By 2025, sales of 5G-enabled PCs are expected to represent 69% of the market.
The paper says that the evolution of 5G has opened up the opportunity for small and mid-size branch offices to rely on wireless paths for both primary and backup branch office access. Ericsson notes that only 14% of buildings with fewer than 20 employees are fiber lit, compared to 69% of buildings with more than 20 employees.
A growing number of enterprises and universities are opening 5G innovation labs to help bring an application from proof-of-concept to full-scale validation. This can help organizations evaluate 5G applications before enterprise-wide rollouts, allow them to showcase innovations to customers and partners, and facilitate the co-creation of 5G applications with partners.
The era of Industry 4.0 is here, thanks to 5G-enabled automation. Cellular wireless connectivity is quickly becoming essential infrastructure for industrial use in mining operations, logistical hubs, to assembly lines and elsewhere.