By Dan Mandell, Senior Analyst, VDC Research Group
5G technology will soon have a major impact on the markets and capabilities of field service organizations across industries. We certainly are only in the early phases of 5G development and standardization. However, the promise the technology holds for business enablement and new applications must be considered now. Field service workers will be more connected, instrumented, and effective than ever before – being deployed when necessary, at the right time, and with the right/better tools. The Internet of Things (IoT) has already transformed the landscape. 5G will now greatly expand the physical limits and potential of connected (field) services.
So, what exactly is 5G and where are we in its creation today? 5G is a paradigm shift in the way communications infrastructures are built, deployed, and consumed – far beyond historical, relatively incremental, advances in wireless networks. 5G networks will be built upon similar systems from 4G but will leverage a variety of innovative radio and communications technologies including new optimized waveforms, massive MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output), and mmWave spectrum. 5G will help deliver secure, always-on connectivity for indoor/outdoor mobile and IoT devices throughout both urban and rural environments.
Leading communications, instrumentation, and mobile technology providers have spared no time in recent years investing huge amounts of money and resources into R&D in an effort to guide technology development and standardization. There have been a number of advances made in just the past year within the ecosystem from organizations including Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, National Instruments, Qualcomm, Samsung, and many more. Formal standardization and government regulation, however, have lagged commercial development. The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union) working parties continue to work toward identifying new radio standards, with the 3GPP accelerating their timeline earlier this year for Release 15 and the ITU working towards its IMT-2020 (International Mobile Telecommunication system) plan, while the governments behind leading economies form their visions and goals for 5G.
The benefits that 5G will enable for field services are vast and transformative. Next generation mobile networks will deliver massive improvements to network coverage, latency, range, and throughput. Field service teams will be able to communicate and send information more quickly to others within and outside of back offices. Large amounts of data will be collected and analyzed through 5G connectivity fueling internal business intelligence as well as IoT services offerings such as asset monitoring and predictive maintenance. Such high visibility into operations helps organizations with maximizing network/system uptime while streamlining and improving the efficacy of field services. 5G will also feature the throughput necessary for high-quality video conferencing and augmented or virtual reality applications for remote field service workers while greatly extending the capabilities of mobile systems already in use relying on 4G or other communications.
While 5G is still early in its journey and real-world rollouts, its technology will have a massive impact on field service in the next five years. The 5G effect will reverberate throughout field service organizations steering IT spend, device lifecycles, personnel training, operations, and more. Field service providers today must start considering what new types of capabilities or services they will want to support in the future and strategically align their roadmaps and partnerships as needed. It is only a matter of time until 5G redefines the field service competitive, market, and technology landscapes.
Learn more about VDC Research’s 5G technology market research coverage here.