5G networks are about to become a reality. This new wireless technology (supported by all four major US carriers) will allow users to download very large files within seconds. The fifth-generation cellular network technology has three main usages:
The biggest benefit of 5G, however, is the combination of significantly faster speeds combined with much more reliable networks for mobile devices. Average download speeds for 5G could easily reach 1GBps. Compared to the paltry average of 12-30Mbps of 4G, and it becomes quite clear why 5G is such a sought-after technology.
5G is happening and should be the de facto standard within the coming years. However, the big question that comes to mind for businesses, is "Should 5G be in your 2020 IT budget?" Let's answer that question.
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First, let's address availability. As of Q3, 2019 5G was only available in the following US cities:
That's a limited number of rollouts so far. Couple that with the small selection of supported devices, and it becomes clear 5G is not ready for prime time. The list of devices (as of July, 2019) looks like:
That's it. There are three smartphones (one of which requires an attachment), a hotspot, and a hub.
First off, the cost of 5G-compatible devices is high. Take, for instance, the Galaxy S10 5G. This device will cost $1,299 on Verizon and T-Mobile networks. AT&T also offers the same device, but only to business customers and developers. The LG V50 ThinQ 5G runs $1,152 and is only available on Sprint and Verizon. With the Moto Z3, you must attach a bulky Mod to make it work (and the phone itself is a bit long in the tooth). As for Apple? There'll be no 5G devices until 2020.
With regard to the cost of a 5G network plan, it looks as though most carriers won't be gouging consumers too much. For example, Verizon will offer what it's calling the Above Unlimited plan that gives consumers unlimited 5G data when connected to a 5G network and 20GB of 4G hotspot data on the Verizon 4G network. The Above Unlimited plan currently is $105/month. That, of course, is the consumer cost. Whether Verizon will offer business discounts is yet to be seen (but chances are good it will).
So you have a higher cost for devices and a higher cost for the associated network, and you have to crunch a few numbers to make that decision.
The answer to this question is fairly simple. If you have users who would benefit from the dramatically increased download speeds and reliability of a 5G network/device combination, then it's a no-brainer. Beyond that, it gets a bit more complicated. Why? Because 5G is such a new technology, many of the business-centric use cases aren't ready to be rolled out.
Let's take a look at a few use cases where 5G would be beneficial:
Some of the above use cases (those associated with mMTC and URLLC) are not ready for rollout, but will be a part of 5G in the near future.
It all boils down to speed of data transmission and reliability. If these two factors are key to your business, then 5G should be considered a must-upgrade. Of course, availability will be the biggest hurdle. But once it's available in your area (and from your carrier), if your company would benefit from a vastly improved mobile network, 5G should most certainly be in your 2020 IT budget.
Yet again, this answer is simple. If your staff functions fine with their current mobile network, there's no reason to roll out 5G devices to those users. Or, if your business doesn't benefit from remotely controlled devices, such as smart devices that link locations, and so on, then the benefit of 5G is probably not high on your budgetary needs. Of course, if you are in an area that isn't supported by a 5G network, the question doesn't arise. And who knows when the entire nation will be covered by this speedier, more reliable technology?
Whether it's in your 2020 IT budget or not, 5G is here to stay. If you don't opt to add this new technology into your current fiscal budget, you should certainly consider it for the coming year.