Manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and many other sectors and activities are increasingly dependent upon near-instant data transfer. That data must be transferred quickly, reliably, and safely and then analyzed. A delay, a glitch, a breach—any one of these can cause severe consequences—even life-threatening ones.
Current networks are struggling to keep up with the flow of this vast amount of data. Businesses of all sizes use cloud services to store and process data on remote servers. But this arrangement can often lead to time delays and data decay. As organizations adopt more emerging technology applications, there will be a critical need for low-latency capabilities: that is, a computer network that is optimized to process a high volume of data messages with minimal delay.
5G and Multi-Access Edge (MEC) computing can provide that level of connectivity. The combination of 5G’s ability to rapidly connect and transfer data between billions of devices, and the ability of MEC to collect and process data locally, can offer tremendous business opportunities.
Growth potential and opportunities
5G has not yet reached its full potential, but its development is advancing. While public 5G networks may deploy more slowly because of higher consumer costs, private 5G networks are showing great potential. In 2020, KPMG and IDC determined that the 5G + Edge market in industrial manufacturing, connected healthcare, intelligent transportation, environmental monitoring, and gaming will be valued at more than over $500 billion by 20231.
For 5G Telecom operators, the opportunity is providing low-latency secure 5G private networks to enterprises and deploying MEC on their existing network infrastructure, leading to more efficient enterprise computing.
For enterprises, the main target audience for 5G platforms includes industries like healthcare, automotive, and gaming where any lag in real-time dataflows and processing could pose severe consequences and where private 5G networks can improve productivity and operational efficiency.
The public sector, that is, smart cities, towns, and countries, are expected to follow suit after the initial adoption by private and public industries.
Emerging technology demands low latency
Many enterprises transfer data to processing centers using LTE or 4G wireless networks, which can degrade the data’s reliability and produce long lag times. That may not be a serious issue today. But with rapidly emerging technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, drones, and robots, any delay could be problematic, while a loss of connection could be catastrophic.
5G has better coverage and is more seamless compared to Wi-Fi or 4G. Working in tandem with 5G, MEC moves processing power ever closer to the user, delivering much higher reliability as it decreases the volume of transferred data and the distance it travels, leading to greatly reduced lag time and improved security since the data remains local. This also enables the cloud-connected applications to perform better, as it removes a huge amount of data that needs to be processed and stored there.
Stronger cyber security
Processing the data locally with MEC is more secure than sending it back over the internet to the cloud. And cellular data networks are more secure than Wi-Fi, since anyone with the credentials can attach to a Wi-Fi network, sometimes even without a password. Moreover, private networks can be set up for a specific area or building and can be customized to meet the client’s specific business needs. For example, critical equipment could be set to connect only to that network, while other phones or equipment would be excluded, making the network even more secure.
These advantages are crucial in environments where time and security are priorities. For example, hospitals need low-latency access to patient information, while protecting privacy. Also, in the wake of COVID, remote work is more prevalent, and many industries require a high degree of security as well as new standards on data protection.
Moving forward with 5G
Implementing 5G private networks is less cumbersome and adapts the speed of network to the client’s business needs to become more efficient and cost effective. Since 2018, we are seeing Communication Service Providers (CSPs) investing in the 5G Edge solutions as they prepare their service offerings. They are either acquiring or partnering with edge platforms to position themselves in the market as a demand for services including artificial intelligence, machine learning, remote monitoring and real-time data processing is increasing, as is the volume of accompanying data. MEC will enable these companies—and others—to provide new solutions and services that fully harness the power of 5G.
Telecoms and companies considering exploring 5G and MEC need to pay attention to the following five recommendations:
- Think past the limitations of 4G and look at the new capabilities 5G will bring, namely increased speed, reliability, and security.
- Understand 5G enterprise DNA and its ability to enable strategic new business models.
- Recognize timing of rollouts will vary, and so will the creation of value.
- Enterprise divisions need to be insight led and agile in their product creation, focusing on the use cases that address pain points and increase efficiency.
- Collaboration with a systems integrator will be required to create the right strategy to unlock the value drivers and achieve value realization.