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What’s Up with 5G for the Enterprise?

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5G phone with arrows connecting cities
Image: Tierney -
Given the torrent of questions we received every time the term “5G” came up last year at Enterprise Connect 19, we had no doubt the topic would be on the program for EC20. This year we aim to get to the heart of what enterprises can expect from the various 5G promises and the anticipated timeframes for them in three sessions on 5G and related cellular technologies.
5G Progress Report Monday, March 30, 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
The program will kick off with our annual review of cellular offerings, and particularly focus on what users are awaiting the near term. The only 5G deliverable we’ve seen thus far is enhanced mobile broadband, essentially the same mobile broadband service we have today, only faster. Our big question will be, “How much faster and where?” The gigabit-plus numbers we’ve been hearing appear to be happening only in millimeter-wave small cells or hot spots, but enterprises will need to know what the macro coverage will deliver as well.
I’ll be probing panelists on two other services that are part of the 5G promise. These are massive machine type communications (i.e., for IoT services) and ultra-reliable low latency communications for rapid response times required with autonomous vehicles, for example. We’ve all read about these, but it’s time we start hearing about dates and deliverables.
The other big questions will surround the prospects for private 5G, a topic that will come up more than once. A couple of factors are pushing private 5G interest. First, the 5G network architecture allows for network slicing – or the ability for carriers to support independent logical networks for different customers on the same radio network infrastructure. While network slicing would allow carriers to offer differentiated services, newly available spectrum bands like Citizens Broadband Radio Service could allow them to build true private 5G networks for specific customers.
With these topics, plus more, we’ll have lots to talk about on 5G.
Mobility 2023: How 5G (And More) Will Change Mobility- Wednesday, April 1, 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The Communications and Collaboration 2023 sessions will give us a chance to look toward the future, and the ongoing convergence of mobility and UC&C/team collaboration apps shows more promise than in years past. I’ve previously written about the carrier factor in 5G, but we’ve yet to get a clear picture of what closer integration between the UC&C/team collaboration platform and carrier network intelligence will mean in terms of user capabilities and productivity.
AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint (soon to be T-Mobile) all offer hosted UC&C/team collaboration solutions, and our mobile workforce uses traditional mobile broadband service to access those platforms on the go. Of even greater interest are the integrated business cellular services that couple the cellular network and Cisco BroadSoft BroadWorks that could open the door to more elevated levels of functionality.
The UC&C-mobile integration we’ve seen thus far simply uses the carriers’ mobile broadband networks like a wide-area version of Wi-Fi. That’s nice, but what we’re really looking for is something that integrates the UC&C/team collaboration platform with the intelligence in the cellular network (including things like location) to deliver something more than a “wide-area Wi-Fi.”
We’ll also be interested in seeing where 5G capabilities like IoT might integrate with the UC&C/team collaboration platform. The big question we’ll be asking is, “What will you be able to do with 5G that you haven’t previously been able to do?”
Indoor Cellular versus Wi-Fi – Wednesday, April 1, 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Given its potential impact on how we provide mobile access to users, this session will explore the question of private 5G versus Wi-Fi. Our clients have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in finely tuned Wi-Fi networks to provide indoor mobility for users within our facilities – but now the carriers are indicating they can do this better.
The solution might take the shape of a true private network with dedicated base stations and frequency bands, or a differentiated network with enhanced performance guarantees using the network slicing technique referenced above.
The carriers have described these offerings only in the most general terms – but they will likely begin approaching large-scale mobile users with proposals for private 5G in the coming months. That way, buyers will need a plan to assess what their options are, the challenges they might face, and the questions they should be asking to get a clearer picture of what a private 5G life experience entails.
Terry Slattery of NetCraftsman will be joining me for this early morning discussion, during which we’ll lay out the options, describe some of the major challenges, and discuss how this type of network would impact both your infrastructure and what your users will experience. This session will prepare you for the next great question you’ll need to address if you’re responsible for the mobile infrastructure of your business.
I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve participated in Enterprise Connect, though I’m sure it’s now measured in decades. Program co-chairs Eric Krapf and Beth Schultz have once again put together an unrivaled program of topics that touch every aspect of the everchanging world of enterprise communications. While I’m excited to share my research in the mobile and UC&C/team collaboration areas, I’m even more psyched to hear what my colleagues at BCStrategies and throughout the industry will be discussing.
See you in Orlando at EC20! If you haven’t registered yet, you still have time to take advantage of the Early Bird rate. Use the code NOJITTER to save $200 off the cost of attendance!

BCStrategies logoThis post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.