If you’ve been watching TV or reading a newspaper (online) lately, you’ve probably started to see all of the 5G wireless network ads that the major service providers have been running. It sure looks like when 5G arrives, the world is going to change. However, one of the big questions that CIOs need to find the answer to is just exactly how is it going to change. More specifically, what will the impact be on workers who want to work from home?
What Does 5G Offer?
At its peak performance, 5G connections could kick up current wireless download speeds by nearly 200 times, fast enough to download a feature-length movie—or a similarly-sized bundle of business documents—in a few seconds, compared with nearly an hour via today’s 4G. The 5G standard also offers some security improvements over existing tech when it comes to VPNs that let you sync up with work servers—good news for anyone conducting sensitive business from home or on the road.
Just as important for remote workers is 5G networks’ low latency, or the time it takes data to go from point A to point B, which will lead to smoother videoconferencing. Since the CIO is responsible for communicating the importance of information technology to the rest of the company, this is important information for us to have. This should help make remote meetings more closely approximate physically meeting in the same space. The image quality will be in HD without the pixelated strobing effect and awkward 5-second audio and video delays workers now face.
The promise of 5G is that it will make the remote worker feel less like a second-class citizen in a meeting. Letting colleagues see each other’s faces and body language aids conversation. This can help you to have context about what’s going on around the person you’re speaking to.
How Far Along With 5G Are We?
The person with the CIO job needs to understand that 5G technology is still in its early days—brands like Samsung, Huawei and LG have only just begun shipping 5G-enabled phones—but industry officials expect a rapid rollout. The phone-chip company Qualcomm said it anticipates that at least 200 million 5G-enabled phones will ship world-wide this year, while Swedish telecom brand Ericsson, which is tracking 5G’s global spread, projects that 74% of North America phone plans will be 5G-enabled by 2025.
Here’s the problem: The grand promise of 5G is to change the way the world works and power advances in A.I. But many experts consider that promise may not happen. For starters, because of the necessary infrastructure, the fastest 5G speeds will be limited to major cities, spreading to rural areas over years. Even then, higher speed networks that push higher quality video and larger amounts of data don’t come cheap, so an employee who wants to work from home might need to spend more. Anyone who wants to connect to 5G networks will likely need to invest in a new suite of devices: phone, laptop, hotspot and more.
Until 5G is widely adopted, brands might not see the value in pushing out product. Even Apple is in a holding pattern when it comes to 5G-enabled iPhones. Many argue that, for those who work at home connecting via 5G might do little to combat a sense of isolation, a fear of not building professional and personal relationships the way you can in an office.
What All Of This Means For You
The person in the CIO position is the one who is responsible for taking the time to evaluate new technologies and understanding what their impact on the company will be. One new technology that is now on the horizon is the 5G wireless technology. This will have a big impact on the company and one of the areas where its impact will be felt the most will be in how employees work from home. Every technology has to be evaluated. What should CIOs think about 5G as it relates to equipping the company’s work from home employees?
The real attraction of the 5G technology is that it provides very fast throughput. It additionally brings a number of security improvements over current wireless technology. The use of 5G technology will allow at home workers to more fully participate in online meetings – they’ll have less delay and their video will be smoother. This can help to make it feel as though the at home worker is more of a part of the team that they are working with. However, 5G comes with its own set of problems, 5G will probably be first rolled out in dense urban areas. Additionally, in order to use 5G workers will have to get new mobile phones and computers.
CIOs need to understand that 5G technology is coming. However, it is clearly not here yet. They need to make sure that they don’t move too quickly and try to transform the company to take advantage of what 5G can offer before the technology is widely available. Instead, CIOs need to watch this new technology and when the time is right, make the changes that will be necessary for the company to take full advantage of it.
Question For You: What signs will show a CIO that 5G is ready for prime time?
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