Digital transformation is upon us and no more so than with the rise of 5G technology. But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that rapid technology advances and adoption is a double edged sword – it can build and destroy equally as fast. As a recent Gartner report found, in less than a year two-thirds of organisations plan to deploy 5G, making it imperative that they prepare for a fresh wave of both opportunities and challenges set to be unleashed on a global economy already in a state of flux. We’ve examined five of the major ones below:
1. The impact of 5G on security
Despite the significant advantages posed by both virtualisation and containerisation, new network architectures will pose challenges. Such technologies add new layers of complexity to already complex networks, making it far more difficult to identify and mitigate issues and tackle security threats. Further compounding the challenge is the fact that the security landscape has changed dramatically. With the growth of the IoT and the arrival of 5G guaranteed to impact the cybersecurity landscape, it’s more important than ever that companies take the time to assess their security strategies. A thorough asset management system will be vital for organisations to keep track of where they have a presence, particularly as the explosion of attack verticals can result in security gaps. In addition, practices and tools that are already in place, such as identity authentication systems, event and incident management tools, and data governance policies, will need to account for the new outer edges of the network.
2. The impact of 5G on IoT
To capitalise on the opportunities of 5G, companies will need industrial IoT networking products that can evolve to the connectivity spectrum, to cover diverse use cases. Suddenly, everyday products like office chairs are going to have chips in them, tracking movement and usage, which means the network has to be much more dynamic. Managing thousands or millions of connected devices will require automation tools for zero-touch deployment and centralised control to simplify network management, which is hard enough. But what about all of those ‘as a service’ options that will result in changing providers? While the idea of each device having its own chip may seem cool from the outside, if a business is to change supplier and therefore a large number of products that’s an altogether bigger issue.
3. The impact of 5G on privacy
There is one major and unavoidable drawback to 5G: it’s going to cost us all location privacy. Anyone with access to an ISP’s cell tower data will be able to hone in on our exact location far more precisely than they can today under our 4G networks. The reason for this is that 4G network technology has a wide coverage area when it comes to being broadcast from a single cellular tower. As a matter of fact, 4G can be broadcast about a mile from a single tower. 5G network technology, on the other hand, has a much smaller coverage area, and it can’t penetrate through walls to get indoors as well as 4G technology can. This means 5G networks will require many more cellular towers placed closer together. To give an altogether different example, there's an apartment building in Oklahoma where the agent is going to do all the day to day management via Alexa built into the walls, which are always on. Impressive, and scary.
4.The impact of 5G on consumption
One of the benefits of 5G is that it can enable low power devices to be able to communicate. At the moment, based on a minimal 4G signalling stack running, it takes quite a lot of power. But 5G is being designed in such a way to create low powered devices, critical for the execution on smart cities and agriculture. That is because this software is going to be concerned with how much energy it uses.
5. The impact of 5G on testing
In the world of 5G, one of the key shifts is a move from a ‘component-centric’ way of thinking to more of a ‘use case, user journey’ way of thinking. Development teams today are all organised around components. We don't have a functional team, but instead have the comms team, the UI team, the blockchain team and so on. If we want to make a feature from a user perspective, we need to sit down with each of those groups to bring that story together. 5G will mean we're going to have to bake that into normal processes.
Connected things simplify our daily lives, but only if we can trust that they will not be collecting and sharing user information. Machine learning and AI will be able to offer eligible predictions and improvements only after we can trust that they will not be biased or unethical. 5G will help us connect faster and will help to advance smart cities, wearables and biotech. Without proper supervision and transparency, this new connected world could easily turn into a dystopia - but if we're all able to trust this new technology, we will all benefit from it.