Industries across the enterprise are advancing their use of both private and public 5G networks as an increasing number of CIOs and other leaders identify business opportunities that require the capacity, low latency and reliability that only the fifth generation of broadband cellular technology delivers.
Recent research underscores that growth.
The global 5G services market is expected to become a $664.75 billion market, according to a recent 5G market report from Grand View Research. That means a compound annual growth rate of 46.2% from 2021 to 2028. The research firm also predicted 5G adoption and use to grow in numerous industries, including agriculture, retail and utilities.
CIOs and other executives across verticals will need to identify the business opportunities 5G enables and understand where and how it can be the differentiator.
"It's really important for businesses to identify where 5G can add benefits," said Leo Gergs, senior analyst with ABI Research. "There's a lot that 4G can do already, but there are cases where the high reliability, high availability and low latency of 5G makes a tangible difference."
Here are 10 of the most exciting 5G use cases and business opportunities CIOs should understand.
1. Enhanced agricultural productivity
Smart farming is already underway, with advanced computing capabilities and IoT empowering data gathering, analytics and decision-making to lower costs, cut resource consumption and create higher yields. But 5G can extend the geographic reach of smart agriculture and lower costs by bringing high-capacity connectivity to rural farming areas, according to industry reports.
2. Improved remote education
Pandemic-era restrictions that led to remote learning spotlighted the vulnerabilities of current connectivity infrastructure. Students were forced to rely on uneven and unreliable networks. However, as telecommunications companies build out their 5G networks, more communities should have access to 5G's high speeds, larger capacity and high reliability.
In turn, 5G should enable better access to remote educational experiences, said Shamik Mishra, CTO for connectivity at Capgemini Engineering. More importantly, educational institutions can develop and deliver new and different kinds of learning content, such as live event streaming, via 5G.
3. Smarter logistics
The logistics field, including transportation, has been expanding its use of IoT to monitor shipments as they move across the United States, over international borders and around the world. The industry is also moving forward with its use of autonomous vehicles in warehouse operations and on the road.
But the number of sensors required to move and process all that data stresses 4G and LTE networks, Mishra said. That limits the industry's ability to capitalize on advanced technologies. 5G removes that cellular capacity limitation, giving the industry more opportunity to expand its use of smart devices.
Leo GergsSenior analyst, ABI Research
4. Advanced healthcare
Healthcare is another industry using 5G to advance and improve its operations.
5G can support the critical and life-and-death use cases that are typical in the medical space, Gergs said. Healthcare organizations can use 5G in numerous ways, such as analytics, patient monitoring, remote diagnostics and robot-assisted surgery. The technology provides a reliability and capacity that rivals fixed-line networks, while enabling mobility within facilities in a way that wired networks can't.
5. Improved manufacturing operations
5G holds a lot of promise for the manufacturing sector, promising more flexibility than wired networks, while retaining the high-capacity, high-reliability and low latency manufacturing needs. 5G supports the ability to reconfigure automated manufacturing operations so they can more quickly meet changing market needs.
6. Modernized mining, oil and gas operations
5G can help modernize operations in the mining, oil and gas industries, which are often in remote and rugged locations. To date, many facilities can't install wired networks due to cost and logistics, and they can't rely on 4G/LTE networks to handle the high volume of mission-critical data. Now, more companies are turning to 5G because it can support the expansive industrial IoT (IIoT) buildout needed to monitor working conditions and guide automated machinery. And 5G, in tandem with edge computing, may help the oil and gas industry take advantage of the vast amount of data machines generate.
7. More personalized and efficient retail
Retailers are looking to better engage customers and create more personalized experiences by merging digital capabilities with in-person services. Many are turning to next-generation technologies and 5G connectivity to enable that. An example of this is augmented reality to help customers visualize furniture in their own homes, sensors feeding data to analytics systems to better manage inventory so customers don't find empty shelves, and personalized advertisements tailored to each customer's unique needs.
8. Smarter government management and services
Municipalities across the world are implementing a range of technologies to create "smart cities," where buildings and other infrastructure and people are all connected so that everyone and everything can move as safely and smoothly as possible. For example, a city can gather and analyze endpoint data about traffic flow and then use the results to route drivers around congested areas. A system with such a high volume of moving parts requires 5G, fueling significant spending in this space.
9. More efficient and effective utilities
Smart grids rely on a vast IoT ecosystem, with multitudes of endpoint sensors, edge devices and analytics capabilities spread over significant geographic regions. That requires the kind of connectivity 5G delivers.
A truly smart grid unlocks a number of benefits, including enabling utilities to reduce operational costs and improve the resiliency of energy services, said Jefferson Wang, global 5G lead at Accenture. For example, a utility can use sensors to monitor the potential for wildfires in real time, which enhances preventive action as well as speeding up response times in the event of an actual emergency. That can then help utilities avoid any interruption in services and help head off significant damage to their infrastructure.
10. Stronger support for the workforce
5G can make a big impact on workers across industries. It can support remote work, delivering a much faster and more reliable connection that's capable of delivering enough resiliency to support even mission-critical remote work. It similarly enables remote collaboration using augmented reality and other such advanced technologies. And it supports training that uses AR and similar tools.
5G also supports advanced workplace safety initiatives, Wang said. As an example, a manufacturer can use a video analytics system supported by 5G connectivity to analyze and act on critical safety issues, such as blocking the start of equipment if the system detects a worker without safety gear.
About the author
Mary K. Pratt is an award-winning freelance journalist with a focus on covering enterprise IT and cybersecurity management and strategy. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including newspapers, magazines and trade journals.