Building the Skills and Talent for 5G-Driven Business Opportunities

Secure the 5G-ready skills needed to pursue new business opportunities.

Success with 5G depends on having the right skills and expertise. The good news is, instead of hiring hard-to-find specialists, businesses can often look to experienced partners for 5G managed services.

It’s a common scenario in modern business. An organization is considering a move to 5G. Its leaders are eager to reap the benefits of 5G networking—including increased speed, greater reach and capacity, and cost savings. And they recognize the new horizons that this next-generation technology can open.

But businesses need to be able to answer the talent questions that come with this kind of strategic opportunity: What skills are required for managing the transition to 5G and unlocking its full potential? And where can those skills be found?

A fully-managed approach to 5G networking.

There are decisions that every organization must make when adopting 5G. One is whether public 5G services can suffice or if a private 5G network—which consists of a 5G network core, a 5G radio access network, and other supporting infrastructure—is needed. A private 5G network is often ideal inside a manufacturing plant, big-box retail establishment, or office complex, but installing and maintaining a private 5G network could require a skills upgrade for an organization.

“With 5G Advanced Network Solutions, T-Mobile can ease an enterprise’s transition to 5G and fully manage the 5G network for them.”

David Chan, Director, Product Management at T-Mobile for Business

That’s where T-Mobile Advanced Network Solutions (5G ANS) can help. 5G ANS offers a fully-managed approach to 5G planning and deployment that eliminates the do-it-yourself learning curve. This includes working with you to determine whether public 5G services, private 5G, or a hybrid combination makes the most sense, given your needs. We at T-Mobile for Business can then help you set up and maintain the network. 

“With 5G Advanced Network Solutions, T-Mobile can ease an enterprise’s transition to 5G and fully manage the 5G network for them,” says David Chan, Director, Product Management at T-Mobile for Business. 

That can include designing and implementing a 5G network in the fashion of a traditional utility. This approach frees you up to focus on other aspects of your overall IT environment, including integrating the applications you plan to deploy on the 5G network. “An enterprise shouldn’t have to worry about the underlying technology,” Chan says. 5G ANS can provide a level of expertise that’s especially valuable in today’s tight labor market, where high demand for skilled specialists has posed a challenge across industries.

Other specialists needed to capitalize on 5G.

The other technologies you might deploy to take advantage of 5G—for example, virtual reality or automated mobile robots—will invariably require specialists' attention. In many cases, adopting those advanced digital technologies are the main reason enterprises upgrade to 5G—for the speed, capacity, reliability, and efficiencies they gain with it.

Thus, while adding skilled engineers in areas such as data analysis and virtualization may require an investment, those expenses potentially can be offset by the cost savings achieved through a more efficient operation, or by the new business and revenue opportunities made possible by the advanced technologies.

Here’s another example: Factory automation, enabled by 5G, might require a manufacturer to bring in additional AI skills and people to physically maintain the robots involved. But those robots will replace manual processes, lessen the need for forklift operators, and help eliminate high-risk jobs—providing efficiencies and other benefits across the board. What’s more, the robots could enable the manufacturer to branch into new, more sophisticated products beyond the scope of human labor.

Talent requirements are case by case.

In the end, the specific skills and talents an organization might need to add depend on how they use 5G.

Consider the example of a manufacturing plant operating a private 5G network that, by adding edge computing, brings data processing power closer to the factory floor. Through our 5G ANS offering, T-Mobile for Business can set up the hardware and software infrastructure, as well as help an enterprise integrate edge computing into its network. The customer can then focus its resources on managing the applications running on that network. Perhaps people on staff have adjacent skills, and those who work with cloud computing or LTE can learn new skills for edge applications.

Any organization with an IT department very likely has people on staff who understand the basics of cybersecurity. But 5G’s capacity to handle so many devices transmitting vast stores of data—in an IoT environment, for example—means being mindful of the potential need to either upskill or expand the security team.

Edge computing also means that manufacturers may be able to deploy sensor-enabled devices for automation, which can lower costs. Here too, skilled workers are needed to deploy those devices, as are people with a background in AI and machine learning to optimize a plant’s processes. Data scientists may also be required, for sifting through the torrents of new sensor-generated information to identify the valuable bits that will make for a more efficient, competitive operation. And keep in mind: With so many devices connected to a network, security is a critical consideration, meaning cybersecurity skills are essential.

The healthcare field offers its own range of possibilities and requirements. For example, 5G promises to give people in rural communities access to medical specialists without traveling to and from a big city. Such uses will require AI-enabled cameras, 3D imaging, and the integration of sensors and other equipment, as well as new technologies that might include holography—all of which demand the skills to operate and maintain those systems.

Another example is a hospital seeking to deploy a 5G network to automate data input from mobile devices, rather than from within dedicated work areas. While that invariably will require integration with legacy systems, 5G leaders like T-Mobile for Business and our deep ecosystem of partners can tend to the middleware or underlying technologies that weave those pieces together through managed services.

In either of those healthcare contexts, or any other involving sensitive medical information, security and privacy are paramount concerns. Whatever the field or industry, any organization with an IT department very likely has people on staff who understand the basics of cybersecurity. But 5G’s capacity to handle so many devices transmitting vast stores of data—in an IoT environment, for example—means being mindful of the potential need to either upskill or expand the security team.

Summary of skills for 5G-enabled applications.

Every situation is somewhat different. But the following are among the skills that may be needed for 5G projects that drive new capabilities and applications:
  • Networking

    Proficiency with Wi-Fi, routers, 4G/LTE cellular, perimeter security, and cabling systems.

  • Edge Computing

    Experience in system architecture, data distribution, cloud computing, and edge servers and security.

  • AI & Machine Learning

    Ability to establish data pipelines for use in process automation, predictive maintenance, and business intelligence.

  • Data Science

    Expertise in aggregating and analyzing data from IoT and sensors to generate data-driven insights for efficiency and process improvements.

  • Cybersecurity

    Knowledge of risks, threats, intrusion detection, and incident response in network environments with thousands of sensors and connected devices.

Soft skills for a rapidly-changing landscape.

Organizations must also pay attention to so-called soft skills when seeking to adequately staff a 5G strategy. Soft skills are the personal traits that allow someone to embrace the changes inherent in an organization’s digital transformation. Managers must honestly evaluate how nimble and adaptable their current team members truly are.
Cognitive agility is critical. Characteristics to consider include: 

  • Can an individual thrive in an ever-changing world?
  • Do they have a problem-solving mindset?
  • Do they welcome innovation—or do they resist change?
  • Does a prospective employee have experience working on a large, transformative project such as virtualization, machine learning, or cloud computing?

Resiliency, flexibility, and the ability to “relearn” are vital attributes inside any organization seeking to capitalize on the possibilities of 5G and other technological advances. 

The key to talent success.

There will likely be challenges during any digital upgrade—progress is seldom painless. Upfront investments may be required, including training, upskilling, and hiring.

The key for any organization seeking to take advantage of 5G is to develop a plan that guides hiring and skills development. That includes identifying priorities. Maybe an enterprise’s top priority is leveraging 5G’s capacity to improve communications in a world in which remote or hybrid work has become the norm. Or maybe the most pressing need is to harness 5G to unlock insights to better reach and serve customers.

Whatever the goals, with a comprehensive plan in place, an organization can ensure that it has the talent and training it needs for each phase of its digital transformation with 5G.

Ready to start building your 5G future?

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