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Earlier this month, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) urged the UK government to handle the roll out of 5G across the country better than that of 4G. With the proportion of 4G users continuing to rise – jumping from 8% to 25% last year – the pressure is on to deliver a stronger network to meet growing demands for data. Recent figures have also revealed that 93% of adults in the UK personally own/use a mobile phone.

5GThe launch of 4G networks in the UK was a major turning point for businesses and consumers – it dramatically improved reliability when employees worked remotely, allowed independent, small businesses to modernise with 4G-powered payment terminals and made online services faster and more accessible for consumers on the move.

Over half of the UK’s LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless networks now operate 4G technology. Though the market is reaching a stage of maturity, the network is in a strong position to continue delivering a better experience to its users.

Looking back, the 3G network made many promises that worked in theory, but not in practice. 4G has made a noticeable dent in delivering against these possibilities, however. The amount of traffic running on these networks has soared, as well as the use of services like online banking, messaging apps, video streaming and online shopping.

New technology opportunities

With the rate at which new technologies are advancing – driverless cars, virtually reality (VR) and the internet of things (IoT) – the demand for a next-generation network is growing. Bearing this in mind, how soon will it be until we see 5G become a reality?

In essence, 5G is the fifth-generation wireless broadband technology that will represent the next phase of mobile telecoms standards. Experts predict that the UK could see its first 5G network as soon as 2020. There’ll be huge differences that it brings, not just the faster internet speeds and greater bandwidth. A major transformation will be the reduction in latency, which limits the mainstream adoption of developing technologies like driverless cars and VR.

For now, there is a great deal of testing that needs to be done in preparation for networks to roll out 5G. But businesses also need to be prepared for the impact it will have on their business and customers.

How to prepare for 5G

Businesses should ready themselves for 5G from both a technical and process perspective. Virtualisation is at the heart of this preparation. Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) has received a lot more attention recently due to its importance in helping organisations meet continuous demands to be digitally-led. Making a business more virtual requires a greater focus on cloud-based technologies and solutions. Support from a service provider will be key because different businesses have varying needs when it comes to virtualisation.

If businesses want to maximise on the latest technology developments, they will need a network that can scale adequately. Networks could grow 10 or even 20 times more due to increased volumes of traffic and millions more devices entering the space. It’s also about maintaining security defences as the network expands. With millions of new devices entering the space, security concerns will need to be addressed from day one. A growing network also means ensuring that accessibility is not limited as a result of increased protection. The best way to do this is work with a service provider and deploy NFV and cloud-based technology for the business as soon as possible.

As we draw closer to 5G, businesses should be proactive with their business model, thinking about how it will impact day to day activities and future processes. Factors to consider include how they will support 5G, how it will affect their customer’s experience using their service or product, and working with new partners they might not have worked with before, such as a healthcare company working with an IoT vendor.

We’re seeing a growing trend in vendors helping their customers migrate to this new environment and using NFV to do so. For those businesses that still need to make this transition, now is a crucial time to start looking for support to ensure a successful migration.


By Peter Nas, senior solutions architect at F5 Networks

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