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Why 5G is more important than ever

3/31/2021
With working from home at an all-time high, 5G couldn’t have come at a better time. How will it impact the office of the future?

Edge Magazine Vol 6 - 5G

As a follow up to the Q&A we featured in The Edge Vol. 4 that discussed 5G and why it matters, this article explores how 5G is shaping up to be more important than ever as companies prepare to bring employees back into the ‘office of the future’ post- COVID-19. Since employees have proven they can work productively from the comfort of their own homes, they are looking for a reason to return. 5G can provide the immersive experience employees are not only craving, but will come to expect going forward. And landlords and investors will come to expect 5G to be an essential amenity for tenants.  

The Edge Magazine sat down with 5G experts Andy Brady, Vice President, and Debika Bhattacharya, Senior Vice President, from Verizon and their partner Rob Franch, Chief Technology Officer from Cushman & Wakefield to explore a range of topics, including how 5G is performing a year into this pandemic, how 5G could impact the office of the future, and what’s next for 5G. 

NOW THAT WE’RE A YEAR INTO THIS PANDEMIC, HOW IS 5G PERFORMING? 

Edge Magazine Vol 6 - 5GAndy Brady, Verizon: A lot of people expected that 5G deployment would slow down because of COVID-19, but the reverse actually happened. Fortunately, it has been much easier to get permits from municipalities due to a slowdown in overall activity, so we’ve been able to accelerate the rollout of installing fiber underground, which is a requirement for 5G. Since people haven’t been on roads much, we’ve been working in the evenings and around the clock, doubling down on our efforts. We currently offer 5G Ultra Wideband (providing ultrafast speeds and reduced lag time) in parts of more than 60 cities and 5G Nationwide is available in 2,700+ cities. We are also excited about the launch of our first 5G iPhone in October 2020.  

Debika Bhattacharya, Verizon: With working from home at an all-time high, 5G couldn’t have come at a better time. A lot of people think 5G is just faster 4G, which it is, but it’s so much richer and has so many more capabilities than 4G as well. The pandemic has shown the need to transform the way we work and collaborate, and 5G has the potential to be part of that transformation. 

HOW WILL 5G IMPACT THE OFFICE OF THE FUTURE? 

Rob Franch, Cushman & Wakefield: If you look at the post-pandemic expectations of the workplace, it’s so much more than just working from your desk. Since people can do that at home, expectations have evolved. So, when people do return to the office, they aren’t going in to just do typical work from their desks. The experience has to be different. Historically, for example, conference rooms were where big client meetings would take place in the office, leveraging the latest virtual platforms and technology. But now, with 5G, employees can collaborate, leveraging these virtual platforms, from almost anywhere in the office—from small huddle rooms to individual offices to large meeting rooms. Having essentially unlimited access to bandwidth and data could lead to much more interactive client meetings as well, which should ultimately improve the overall customer experience while cutting down on travel requirements.  

Debika Bhattacharya: We are continuing to see more workers being untethered from desks. They’re not just on their phones, but working on more complex problems on their tablets in conference or huddle rooms, without having to be at their desks or on their computers. They can do that now because of 5G’s bandwidth and speed. Phone and tablet apps are only going to become more powerful and interactive and with 5G's promise of faster speeds and higher bandwidths, the opportunity exists for people to do their work on the go. 

HOW ARE MOBILE EDGE COMPUTING (MEC) AND 5G WORKING TOGETHER TO IMPROVE THE END-USER EXPERIENCE? 

Andy Brady: In simple terms, edge computing is the practice of capturing, processing, and analyzing data near where it is created. It’s all around us—from your smart watch to streaming video to drone-enabled deliveries. And these applications are only becoming more prevalent. Today, less than 10 percent of data is created and processed at the edge. As the adoption of edge computing grows, we will likely see a significant increase in data being created and processed at the edge. When you make decisions on the edge in the office place, they are in real time, which enhances the user experience. For example, if you are looking at a 3D holographic schematic on a device connected to the 5G network, you could have the ability to make changes that will take effect immediately. Making this decision on the edge of the network as opposed to having to go to the cloud and back can make a real difference in timing. When you can offer a solution that changes the way the work gets done, people will come into the office for that. 

HOW DO OFFICE BUILDINGS FACTOR INTO THE FUTURE OF 5G? WHY SHOULD CRE INVESTORS CARE? 

Rob Franch: Landlords and investors are increasingly viewing 5G as a ‘must have’ versus a ‘nice to have’ amenity. After all, the technology is key to marketing space effectively—especially in a post-COVID-19 era when employees will need a reason to return to work. We've been advising our clients to make sure they have the technology infrastructure in place to be able to enable 5G and recently we’ve gone a step further, helping tenants optimize their space for 5G as well. 

Andy Brady: Another 5G product we’re excited to launch in the second half of 2021 is Private 5G. Certain industries, such as manufacturing, banking and logistics, want all-inclusive capabilities and top security within their own private environment or ecosystem. We can build them a completely enclosed secure network, enabling faster responses to issues. With tighter security measures in place, network owners have the ability to determine which users connect and what data is contained within the site, mitigating overall risk. In addition, part of the attraction of a Private 5G network is that it keeps your data local and, because of the low latency, it can be real time and interactive. 

Rob Franch: To add to this, within the office space, we’ve been trying to eliminate excess core cabling and infrastructure for years. If we can employ Private 5G over time, no Wi-Fi network or infrastructure would be required, just one Private 5G network. This would allow us to reduce the amount of cabling—and not having to run cabling to desks, phones and conference rooms saves a lot of time and money. It would ultimately open up a lot of possibilities for the way we design our floorplans and flexible workspace going forward. In addition, Private 5G would also enhance the end user experience. As employees come into the office, they will automatically join the building’s private network, which provides more secure and faster content delivery. 

WHAT'S NEXT FOR 5G? 

Andy Brady: We know that it will take some time to fully build out the 5G network, but we also know that the fastest network doesn’t happen overnight. Our 5G Ultra Wideband network is currently in 64 cities and growing and we find ourselves in a strong position with a solid LTE base to work from. We anticipate 2021 to be the year when 5G really makes its move. Coverage will get better and speeds will get faster. The sheer number of 5G smartphones is expected to more than double to 600 million in 2021, according to Strategy Analytics, and nearly half of all phones will have 5G by 2022. 

Debika Bhattacharya: 2019 was all about introducing 5G phones and faster speeds. 2020 was all about making the technology real. And in 2021, we will witness that speed and performance everywhere, while applying the technology to so much more beyond phones. Whether through robots, cars, health devices or retail, 5G will undoubtedly transform not only how we operate, but how we work, live and play going forward. 
 
In simple terms, edge computing is the practice of capturing, processing, and analyzing data near where it is created. 

10 WAYS 5G AND MOBILE EDGE COMPUTING (MEC) COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE 

 
  1. Streaming: With numbers expected to increase as consumers stream more content, 5G and MEC should help reduce latency, increase video resolution and enable subscribed viewers to watch virtually anything on the go. 
     
  2. Content creation: With mobile phones evolving to enable professional quality video, and more content creators choosing them for simplicity and flexibility, MEC should help increase upload speeds and data throughput while ensuring a rich media experience for audiences. 

  3. Remote work: With MEC, both organizations and employees can take collaboration to a new level. From delivery and ride-sharing to the industrial sector, where real-time monitoring of assets at the edge could reduce operating costs and downtime, MEC can enable new pathways for productivity. 

  4. Gaming: In 2019 WIRED reported there were more than 2.5 billion active gamers and e-sports professionals around the world, with a majority playing from an active mobile device. That’s where MEC should be a game changer. Matching mobility with performance, gamers can experience high quality, whether they are hosting or playing. 

  5. Healthcare: Thanks to a myriad of connected technologies, many things could be accurately measured and monitored at home. With processing done at the edge, data could be analyzed instantly, triggering devices to either automatically adjust or alert healthcare professionals, both of which could improve the quality of care and reduce healthcare costs dramatically. 

  6. Smart cities: Cities across the globe are increasingly deploying millions of sensors that collect and monitor traffic, infrastructure, crime and environmental data to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. With MEC, all that information could be sent to a nearby data center rather than a large centralized one, enabling near real-time insights that can drive better, more cost-effective decision making. 

  7. Smart homes: With more homes using connected devices, centralized servers that process data collected from these devices increase privacy risk and latency. MEC could address those challenges by enabling mobile or IoT devices to process data within the periphery of the home network rather than the cloud, which should enhance privacy and security while reducing latency. 

  8. Vehicles: With MEC and the proliferation of sensors that collect and share data in near real-time, certain vehicles should have the capability to do things like alert another vehicle if it is too close, activate the brakes to avoid a collision and detect if a driver is impaired and temporarily assist the driver with the wheel, all of which help to improve the driving experience and safety.
     
  9. Public safety: From body cameras to aerial surveillance, data processed at the edge could enable real-time intelligence for reporting and critical updates, which could empower first responders and emergency crews to take decisive and quick action that could dramatically improve public safety. 

  10. Entertainment: With MEC and 5G, virtual engagement opportunities could include not only live stream but also holograms that may bring the game, the music, the play and the performers all within arm’s reach, right from your sofa. 

Read the full article. 

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