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Capitalising on the 5G opportunity means having the foundations now

The popular saying out there is that the real innovations that 5G will enable haven't even been dreamed up yet.

Think back to the jump from 3G to 4G. With 3G we relied on WiFi hotspots and our homes to download anything substantial to our phones. When we were out and about, the internet connection wasn't good for much more than checking email and making social media posts (without pictures). Once 4G arrived we started using geo-location apps like Uber and Airbnb, streaming videos while on the go, and playing games in augmented reality. What we'll be doing with 5G will be every bit as much of a leap forward – if not more so.

It's an exciting time and there is going to be a surge of innovation on the horizon. As it will all be about exploring uncharted waters, for companies like Optus, the initial goal needs to be to make sure that the foundation is robust, resilient, and ready for innovation. What we have learned so far is that Australian businesses should not approach 5G adoption as a tick box solution, but rather a technology that requires a programmatic approach, where more 5G benefits are purposefully added to the technology architecture over time. It requires a foundation of upwards thinking.

The state of 5G now

There's much that can be done with existing 4G and fibre networks, that meets the needs of many organisations. 4G technology can manage both Secure Digital and High Definition streaming of video content, facilitate a network of IoT-powered sensors and cameras, and power networks on the cloud. Over the past 18 months it's been proven that the combination of 4G and fibre internet has allowed individuals to work remotely, and enterprises to "keep the lights on" when everything is managed online. Nonetheless, the 5G rollout across the globe and here in Australia is progressing at a pace to meet the next generation of connectivity needs. 5G is no-doubt the future!

For many organisations 5G should be seen as a "future proofing" investment, that can be deliberately included into the technology architecture of an organisation. Media-heavy organisations might be competitive with HD video feeds and streaming, but it won't be long before 4K or even 8K streaming, 360-degree video, and AR-enabled media all become standardised, and those technologies rely on internet speeds that are measured in Gbps – the kind of speeds that 5G facilitates.

Meanwhile, IoT sensors are sufficient for a lot of current robotics, automation, and data gathering, but it won't be long before absolute real-time becomes mandatory. Remote controlled vehicles, drones, and specialised remote fine precision tools (think medical operation robots) are all going to drive a new wave of innovation among verticals, and these technologies all require near-zero latency.

And then there is the cross-section of the two, where technology requires both 5G speeds and the technology's capacity for near-zero latency. Autonomous vehicles, virtual reality streaming for live events, and a range of such low-touch, high-tech use cases will all benefit from 5G.

How CIOs should be thinking about 5G

CIOs should be thinking about 5G now, whether their organisation has the immediate need for 5G-driven innovation or not. In particular, they should have three perspectives in mind:

-        CIOs should be setting new business and IT goals, both in the short and long-term – it might be that 5G doesn't play much of a role in the short term, but it almost certainly will with the long term, ensuring that your organisation is ready to benefit from 5G as it becomes available across more areas.

-        Exploring whether they will need to make broader network and infrastructure revisions – many enterprises are discovering that the cost of a 5G add-on later might not be the best approach, which is again why it's important to have that forward thinking and the provision of 5G readiness included in connectivity plans for people and things.

-        Preparing for massive new quantities of data – 5G with its ability to connect millions of devices in a square kilometre area, means that there will be a large array of data collected in real time.  Businesses will have the opportunity to capture additional value through data analytics and insights, in areas where opportunities might have been previously overlooked due to lack of visibility and access to appropriate data.

Optus, in collaboration with partners like Cisco, is helping CIOs with preparing their environments for 5G and taking the first steps with their new foundations. For many of our customers, it's not about achieving competitive advantages via innovation. It's about preparing the environment for what comes next because 5G will be the core driver of Industry 4.0, and just as with every other "revolution" previously, it's always the forward-thinking organisations that position themselves for success ahead of time.

For more information on Optus and Cisco 5G solutions, click here.