The Advent of 5G: A Pivotal Opportunity for Innovation


Remember what it was like trying to browse the web on a 3G connection? Or—heaven forbid—trying to stream a video?

It was painful. So painful, in fact, that a lot of us only bothered with the internet on our cell phones when we were able to connect to WiFi.

Then 4G came along and the improvement was dramatic. We can binge-watch an entire Neflix series on our phone or tablet with hardly a hiccup. We can spin up a mobile hotspot and work about as well as we could from our office building. 

Now the next step in this evolution, a 5G (fifth generation) network, is imminent. And people are losing their minds about it.


What’s all the hype about?

When it comes to technology innovation, the rate of change is not linear, it’s exponential; while the leap from 3G to 4G was substantial, the leap from 4G to 5G will be staggering. Here’s a quick comparison of the top download speeds for each generation:

  • 3G: 8 Mbps
  • 4G: 100 Mpbs
  • 5G: 10,000 Mbps (yes, 10 Gbps!)

While it took around a minute to download your average mobile app on 3G, we’ll be set in less than a second on 5G. And latency could go down to as low as one millisecond.

This means that we’ll be able to transfer an outrageous amount of data almost instantly, from anywhere with cellular connectivity (so, most everywhere).

And that means that we’re faced with unbounded opportunity to innovate across all industries.

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What 5G means for business

Consider how the ability to seamlessly transmit huge quantities of data could impact the healthcare industry—one that, by 2020, will produce 2,314,000,000,000,000 GB of data (that’s twelve zeros). We may find ourselves empowered to:

  • Evaluate and respond to test results faster
  • Accelerate clinical trials
  • Better assess treatment efficacy
  • Blow open monitoring/early warning capabilities for wearable tech
  • Connect rural patients to distant specialists
  • Expand robotic assisted surgery
  • Facilitate innovative digital therapeutics
  • And on and on

Imagine calling an ambulance for help, and the EMTs that arrive are able to download all your health monitoring data instantly—with clear trend lines over the past 6-12 months!

It is completely reasonable to say that 5G will help us save lives. And it is completely reasonable to anticipate equally as dramatic results from other industries.

This is where you’ll have to put some work in.


What action should you take?

If you have even a whisper of an inkling of a notion that your industry and your business might be able to capitalize on the advent of 5G, the time to brainstorm is now.

While we still don’t know precisely when this network will fully launch, the steady march of progress promises that it will launch, and soon. And if we want first-mover advantage, we cannot delay our efforts.

Take the time to think through what these increased capabilities might mean for you and for your clients. Is there an opportunity to enhance or expand your offerings? Facilitate your growth objectives? Improve morale?

Even if you aren’t in a position to actively use 5G to your advantage, still take the time to consider—deeply and thoughtfully—how it could change the landscape around you, and prepare to adapt to those changes proactively.

We will likely be transformed by the shift 5G brings about, but we need not be blindsided.


As originally published in the American City Business Journals.


Topics: trends, strategy, productivity