Verizon and Microsoft have teamed up to accelerate the delivery of private 5G networks for businesses, announcing a collaboration they said will transform the retail, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and healthcare industries.
Touting 5G data speeds that are already 25 times faster than current 4G technology (and will eventually be 100 times faster), the two companies said the security, reliability and ultra-low lag times will bring increased efficiency and reduced costs.
For example, the companies pointed to the benefits that private 5G networks would bring to health providers who could use the increased speed and security to enable artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and seamless sharing of large files to improve patient care.
The companies also said high-precision asset localization, tracking and positioning would be an advantage for businesses such as logistics and supply chain solutions provider Ice Mobility, which is already testing an on-site 5G platform.
“We are especially excited to join Verizon and Microsoft to test how 5G and MEC [mobile edge computing] can improve the quality assurance process,” said Ice Mobility CEO Mike Mohr in the announcement. “And this is just the beginning.”
By reducing product packing errors, Mohr said his company could save 15 to 30 percent in processing time and significantly increase throughput and reduce costs.
Making 5G a Reality
While the Verizon/Microsoft announcement is focused on bringing the next generation of mobile connectivity to businesses via private networks, companies like Apple are moving forward with plans to bring 5G to mainstream consumers. Apple’s recently unveiled iPhone 12 was debuted two weeks ago, even though a true 5G experience could still be years away on existing cellphone networks in the U.S.
To that point, a September report in The Washington Post noted that tests of download speeds on 5G devices were roughly the same as had been seen on 4G phones, raising the question if consumers would be willing to pay more money for essentially the same user experience.
The race to build out the next-gen network is also accelerating, as seen in the recent $6.6 billion telecom equipment contract that Samsung signed with Verizon.
While the South Korean tech giant is best known for its devices and semiconductor chips, its expansion into the equipment side of the business comes amid a race to deploy 5G around the world.
Samsung’s shift to 5G is also being aided by a push from the United States and its allies to bar gear made by Shenzhen-based Huawei from their emerging networks, citing security terms related to the company’s ties to the Chinese government.
Samsung, which has been a relatively minor player in the telecom equipment market, is catching up rapidly, and now has a 10 percent to 15 percent share of the burgeoning 5G equipment sector, the Financial Times reported.
The 5G Killer App Debate
Even though the advance of 5G networks and devices is expanding and accelerating today, the process that has been on the radar for years already, with tech gurus and a range of telecom industry players all preparing for the inevitable — whenever that might actually be.
In July, Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm told an industry conference that he thought it was futile to attempt to define what the 5G killer app might be, saying that the next three years would be critical.
More broadly speaking, ZDNet reported that studies conducted by Nokia showed 83 percent of businesses and 90 percent of consumers said high-quality, uninterrupted video streams would be a “very valuable” aspect of 5G.
Even so, Josh Aroner, vice president of CSP Marketing for Nokia, said there are “applications and use cases that you and I can’t even imagine yet.” He noted that the research was done before the pandemic, the surge in Zoom calls and the work-from-home lifestyle for employees and students.
Other industry players, such as Cisco, said the online gaming industry would also likely be an early adopter of 5G tech, given the growth and economics of the business that reflect users’ willingness to spend money to decouple from the console.