How will 5G impact IT?

Last year the top technology predictions for 2020 were unveiled and it was no surprise that the dominating themes were focused around 5G. When 5G comes into force, it will bring with it advantages to benefit from, but also disadvantages to prepare for. We share our thoughts on a few of the pros and cons as we enter this new era.

No doubt our lives will be enriched by the wave of innovation that 5G will bring from both a leisure and work perspective. We can look forward to faster speeds (up to 100 times faster than 4G), new products, new services and new business models. As consumers, we can look forward to reaping the benefits of the transformation it will make to industries such as manufacturing, automotive and healthcare.

In the business world, 5G will drive changes in the way companies are required to manage their IT and how their employees use it.

Productivity up, costs down With the ability to capture more data, 5G will boost the power of Artificial Intelligence through new insights, greater efficiencies and innovations leading to faster and better-informed decision making. With increased network speeds and lower latency than 4G, employees’ productivity will increase; they’ll be able to complete tasks much faster by accessing files, programs and remote applications without waiting. We could even see reduced costs and energy consumption; after all, 5G technology will supposedly reduce the core network consumption by 90% and extend the battery life of devices by ten times.

A virtual workplace The rise in the use of cloud based applications such as Office 365 saw an increase in remote working in the last decade and with it came improved employee collaboration. Soon, 5G will enable us to work truly virtually, almost as if we’re in the same office. Work will become more of a “thing” as opposed to a “place”. Remote or home working arrangements today mean employees can perform a wide range of tasks but none that actually require an employee’s physical presence, like operating equipment or vehicles. With 5G, this will become possible.

Secure or insecure? 5G poses positive and negative challenges for cyber security. When the network moves away from hardware-based to software-defined, there is less potential to monitor and control it. The software managing the network can itself be vulnerable: an attacker that gains access to the software therefore gains control of the network. When high volumes of hackable smart devices are connected to the network, otherwise known as the IoT, vulnerabilities are created. Faster speeds and higher capacity networks means more data will be exchanged over a wider area by more distributed devices. This will place extra pressures on IT infrastructure capacity and ability to secure data traffic at the same rate of acceleration that 5G networks are passing it in and out of global data centers. And higher bandwidth and throughput from 5G can make DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks more prevalent by enabling faster, data-dense attacks.

Alternatively, it could be argued that 5G will actually make remote working more secure (and easier to secure). Consider the ‘slice’ concept. At the moment a remote worker will most likely make a VPN connection over their broadband or 4G connection to create a secure tunnel from their device to their office network. The ‘slice’ concept removes the need for the VPN tunnel. The device on 5G is always connected to a slice of the network dedicated to that device. That slice could only have that device in it, or it might have multiple remote workers of the same company in it. Wherever in the country (in theory) that device goes, as long as it’s connected to 5G it will always be on that same slice. And in the core of the 5G network, that slice routes all data from the remote device into the customers network.

5G or Broadband? At the end of the day, we must remember that 5G is a mobile data technology, so it’s likely the only time a customer will use it will be when they are on their phone or possibly working remotely. And when they are at home they will likely use their own broadband. Yes, you might have a 5G enabled IoT device, but it’s likely to be for consumer use, and even if it is for business use there will likely still be an option to use the business Wi-Fi in the office, which would be easier to secure.

In conclusion...

5G will offer benefits and create threats. There will be times when it offers little advantage to an end user or is perhaps not used at all, but businesses need to be aware in order to exploit opportunities and protect themselves from potential pitfalls.

If you have any queries about how 5G might effect the way your business currently manages IT, don't hesitate to get in touch with us on