Scaling 5G Technology Use Cases for Business Performance and Efficiency

Moving from 5G exploration to embracing use cases at scale.

Once an organization has completed its initial foray into 5G networking with a pilot project or limited rollout—otherwise known as the “crawl” phase—how does it expand to additional users and applications?

The middle or “walk” stage of a 5G implementation—in the three-step “crawl, walk, run” approach to 5G—is where the big benefits of 5G get extended to more users and other parts of the business.

This article is the second in a three-part series to help businesses deploy 5G on a timeline that makes sense for them. (See Part 1 here.)

Picking up the pace of 5G adoption.

What does it mean to walk with 5G? This is the phase when the initial, small-scale exploration with a new technology is turned into a viable, long-term implementation plan. The process includes evaluating user requirements, assessing organizational data demands, considering business processes, and mapping out potential applications and use cases.

In essence, an entire organization, or at least large parts of it, stand to benefit from 5G’s impressive performance characteristics. “After an initial proof of concept, the walk phase can be where you start deploying infrastructure across sites,” says David Chan, Director – Product Management at T-Mobile for Business. “This can also be where a business can add new use cases to the original test site.” How does walking with 5G work in practice? SailGP, the global catamaran racing league and a T-Mobile for Business partner, offers a compelling example:

When it became clear that an initial 5G proof of concept—temporary, dedicated cellular coverage to derive strategic insights from boat data—could improve both racing team and fan experiences, SailGP picked up the pace. In this case, walking with 5G involved deeper integration into their infrastructure; supporting a new race with a permanent cell tower; and even testing a new use case: networks of GoPro cameras to capture immersive racing footage for improved fan experiences.

In a T-Mobile for Business survey2 of 200 enterprise IT and network decision-makers whose organizations have begun adopting 5G, 92 percent said 5G has helped their companies be more efficient. And 41 percent said 5G has helped them optimize operations. 

There’s often an “Aha!” moment, says Chan, when business managers realize: “We can do so much more with all this bandwidth. This is amazing.”

Walking the walk with 5G.

Business adoption of 5G is growing quickly, especially as public 5G services become more widely available. The T-Mobile 5G network is expected to reach 97 percent of the U.S. population by the end of 2022. And 5G device shipments more than doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year, surpassing 615 million units shipped worldwide, according to Ericsson.

The choice of public 5G or private 5G need not be an either/or decision. T-Mobile 5G Advanced Network Solutions can implement public, private, or hybrid 5G architectures—along with multi-access edge computing—to meet a customer’s unique needs.  

As an alternative or in addition to public or “macro” 5G, some companies may choose to deploy private 5G networks within office buildings or other facilities. The T-Mobile 5G Advanced Network Solutions team helps businesses plan and build private 5G networks—often as part of broader initiatives that include edge computing—and IoT platforms paired with artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

The choice of public 5G or private 5G need not be an either/or decision. T-Mobile 5G Advanced Network Solutions can implement public, private, or hybrid 5G architectures—along with multi-access edge computing—to meet a customer’s unique needs.

Here are some of the ways across industries that organizations might expand from crawling to walking with 5G:

  • Retail - 5G testbed could grow from using sensors to monitor customer traffic at one location to product tracking and supply chain optimization across multiple stores.
  • Healthcare - 5G-enabled virtual consultations could expand to 24/7 remote patient monitoring with wearable technologies or even to support video analytics for home healthcare. 
  • Manufacturing - 5G sensors might be used initially to support assembly-line automation, then extend to provide predictive maintenance throughout a factory. 
  • Construction - a 5G trial to facilitate high-speed file sharing among architects, builders, and project managers could widen to support worker safety and site security.
  • Transportation & Logistics - 5G might start with communications for smart devices used by drivers, then evolve to include package tracking in sorting facilities or warehouses.
  • Automotive - 5G is already being used for preliminary, Stage 2 autonomous driving. Going forward, 5G is expected to be used to navigate fully autonomous vehicles.

Where the momentum is building.

Gartner® has evaluated early-stage 5G adoption across a variety of industries. The 2022 Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey identified the following trends:

  • “Six percent of respondents across all industry verticals say they have already deployed some type of 5G technology. Yet, many early deployments of 5G appear to be test environments.”
  • “Within a 12-month time horizon, respondents from the oil and gas industry, the automotive sector, and asset-intensive manufacturing head up the 5G investment propensity.”
  • “Within a 24-month time horizon, over 40% of respondents from the transportation and logistics, consumer goods, healthcare providers, and utilities industry verticals, along with the ones already mentioned, will deploy 5G technologies.”1

An abundance of use cases and promising results.

As organizations scale 5G services during the walk phase, business managers and other stakeholders might want to consider and evaluate many other potential use cases. That’s especially true as 5G’s business value becomes evident during pilot projects, prompting other parts of the organization to seek getting involved. 

In the T-Mobile for Business survey of IT and network decision-makers whose companies are already using 5G, two-thirds started by deploying 5G to automate processes. As a result of such efforts, “our production procedures are more productive and efficient,” observed one survey participant. “And we produce products of greater quality.”

Remote work and training are other common uses—cited by nearly a quarter of the survey respondents. At the same time, adds Chan, “Predictive maintenance and computer vision are often discussed.”

 In a third-party research focus group commissioned by T-Mobile for Business, IT decision-makers also discussed some of the many other ways companies are using 5G. They included activity sensors in buildings, extended reality (XR) for inspecting fuel lines in the oil industry, conferencing for interviews with job candidates, and remote connectivity for legal professionals on the road who need access to resources stored in a law firm’s data center or in the cloud.

Pursuing success without getting sidetracked.

With careful planning and cross-organization alignment, 5G rollouts should go smoothly.

Of course, project planners should always be ready to deal with unexpected issues that might surface. 5G implementation challenges cited by IT and network decision-makers during the focus group included lack of training, multilayered approval processes, and complications arising from the integration of 5G with outdated infrastructure.

Yet, those are common hurdles that experienced project managers know how to overcome, and that business partners like T-Mobile for Business and our 5G Advanced Network Solutions can help avoid.

And the benefits are well worth the effort. In a T-Mobile for Business survey, increased efficiency was deemed the top benefit—cited by 80 percent of respondents—followed by improved productivity (70 percent) and improved processes (69 percent).

As more companies enjoy success with wide scale 5G deployment, experts like David Chan expect even more “Aha!” moments. “Once you see companies realizing some of the power of technology out there,” he says, “I think you'll see a lot more forward thinking.”

For more on how to “crawl, walk, and run” with 5G in business, see:

CRAWL: The secret to success with 5G? Start planning now
RUN: Accelerating innovation and strategic advantage with 5G

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