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The most exciting applications of 5G Edge Cloud haven’t been dreamed of yet

The 5G rollout across Australia continues to gain steam. Earlier this year, we announced a new 5G speed record, with a massive 10Gbps registered at a live site in Brisbane. Following the launch of the iPhone 12, demand for 5G services has started to escalate, and with that will come a steady broadening of the 5G coverage from major cities to regional Australia.

However, the most compelling value proposition that we see for 5G is not limited to consumer space. The qualities of 5G mean that enterprises and the public sector will potentially benefit considerably in deploying 5G in their workspaces, as 5G enhances the way that a modern, digital-first business operates. It may be some years away before enterprises are using 5G with the ubiquity that they currently rely on Wi-Fi, but when they do, the innovation that 5G will unlock is unprecedented: enterprises will likely be using the Internet in a way that hasn't even been conceived of yet.

The most obvious benefit of 5G – and the feature that most cite when taking up the technology – is bit rates. The modern enterprise, which is managing multiple cloud environments, running AI applications of increasingly large volumes of data, and using video for interaction and communication more than ever, certainly benefits from 5G speed boost. But that's only the start of the benefits to enterprise, and as an industry, the success of 5G in Australia rests on our ability to help enterprises imagine innovation that has, until now, not been possible. 

For example, 5G offers the lowest latency of any connectivity option, with ultra-reliable low latency capability promising latency down to around 1ms when fully deployed. 

This latency figure is small and almost imperceptible to humans, but latency has been a roadblock to several possible applications in enterprise. Extreme examples of automation and AI that need to respond with no delay to the data input – for example, think of self-driving cars and their need to "read" road conditions at the speed in which humans do natively. Or edge computing deployments, where transactions are pushed from mainframes in the office to IT deployments on-site. This offers enterprises new levels of operational efficiency, but edge deployments don't really work until the latency gets down to as close to 0 as possible. Security is another example. AI and automation can monitor IT environments for malicious abnormalities and attacks, but unless it's done in real time, the window might not be closed fast enough to prevent the hacker getting in.

Another major trend across IT is the increased customisation of environments. Across the stack, from clouds, to services and applications, businesses now look beyond "one size fits all" solutions to instead focus on solutions that meet their specific and unique needs. Traditionally, the network has been a roadblock to fully customised environments, but 5G unlocks network slicing opportunities, allowing CIOs to structure their networking environment around multiple independent networks that are specifically configured to meet the service requirement needs of each line of business that they support. 

In short, low latency, highly configurable, fast 5G provides enterprises with the opportunity to do things that they haven't done before, and this is driving real innovation. We recently showcased how Cloud based augmented reality can benefit from low latency edge cloud access and high speed of the 5G network. This is an example of what is possible when we combine 5G with edge computing capability.

Rising to the challenge

While 5G may be a few years away from achieving the kind of role in enterprise that Wi-Fi currently fills, it is a looming inevitability. Interestingly, what we see is that when it comes to viability, it's also going to change the relationship between telecommunications companies and enterprise. 

As CIOs look to architect networking solutions that apply across clouds, edge deployments, remote locations and leverage the capabilities of real-time processing, they're going to need a telecommunications provider that has moved along the value chain, away from a purely operator model to become more of a digital transformation partner. Research shows that 80 per cent of revenue growth in organisations is going to be tied to digital offerings and operations in the very near future. This makes the network the very foundation to a digitally transformed enterprise and critical to its ongoing health and opportunity. In recognising this, telecommunications partners will need to drive new culture and skills, business models, and technical capabilities within their operation to support their customer's focus on digital and innovation.

5G is a truly transformative technology that is going to be used to unlock new opportunities and even new lines of business that are yet to be conceived. At Optus, our focus is on providing a vision for 5G that goes well beyond fast, mobile Internet, and represents a new strategic opportunity for our enterprise customers.