5G – The Enterprise Opportunity

This research was supported by Collinear Networks

The fact that the top five companies in the world in 2017 were tech companies that form the foundation of platforms and applications for the global ecosystem shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention. The confluence of broadband network, mushrooming of applications and services on iOS and Android, and near universal applicability of Connected Intelligence has shaped the global economy over the last few years. The coming changes will be even more pronounced.

Powered by very fast and reliable broadband networks, sensors that inform the enterprise on every turn, and intelligent software that learns and adapts as it digests the data around it will change the face of the enterprise world as we know it. Incumbents have been slow to recognize the breathtaking pace that results from the introduction of new capabilities. Upstarts unencumbered by the weight of legacy and old-thinking have set the pace of change. They look at each problem in the supply-chain, each kink in the user experience as their calling to disrupt the industry segment and move the collective understanding forward.

5G is at our doorsteps and it is going to shape the various industries in more profound ways than we can imagine. The signs of disruption are everywhere. Adoption of smartphones led to Uber, Lyft, Ola, and Didi Kuaidi, which not only reshaped the taxi and the riding industry to its core but also accelerated the collective wisdom about autonomous vehicles. Availability of LTE networks played a central role in the exponential growth of the mobile video advertising industry. Airbnb went after hospitality, Amazon after commerce, Tencent after communications, and Paytm changed the payments landscape. Many of the billion-dollar digital enterprises didn’t even exist a decade ago.

We think that 5G is going to bring about similar and probably more profound changes. How will enterprises take advantage of these new capabilities in not only their respective industries but more fundamentally, how will they define their place in it? Will 5G enable new business models for the enterprise? Will 5G lead to new revenue streams? To be a successful participant in the Connected Intelligence ecosystem, one must look at the opportunities across the stack including access. Some will require partnership, others ownership. In some instances, the only way to reach a broader market will be through collaboration while for other cases, going it alone will help secure early market lead. The new paradigm will require a mindset shift as well as an update of the strategic ethos.

5G will enable enterprises to rethink the nature of their perimeters with their customers, suppliers, and sources of value, opening them to more digital exchanges while exerting new controls through a wider range of data-driven means. It will touch the basic infrastructure elements that tie the pieces of corporate data and knowledge together – compute, storage, connectivity, intelligence, security, and more. 5G will afford opportunities for enterprises to build the entire stack on their own or outsource and partner depending on what drives economic and supply-chain efficiencies. This will open up the market for new suppliers, architectures, and residency models.

The digitization of industries is happening in front of our eyes. The confluence of sensors, AI, and 5G will shape the industries of the future. Robotics will redefine manufacturing, autonomous vehicles will make current transportation means obsolete, sensors inside our bodies will change the role of doctors, hospitals and clinical services, retail will go virtual, and education will teleport us into the essence of the subject. But who will put the pieces together? Who will take the lead? What standardization will be needed before the market can scale? Who will be the winners and the losers? We will answer these pertinent questions in due course. One thing is certain that the players who experiment early and try to incorporate the learnings into their roadmaps and strategic outlook stand to benefit the most. Those who wait for others to figure it out are bound to the annals of historic missteps.

This paper will delve into some of the 5G capabilities that will enable us to look at the set of current and emerging issues and opportunities differently. It will further look into use cases in some of the industries. It is important to understand the capabilities that will become available over the next decade but also strategize how they are going to shape various industries.

See the first paper in this series – Realizing the 5G Promise