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Take 5: The 5G ecosystem

Part of the Take 5 on 5G article series with Deloitte 5G leaders

Wendy Frank, Arpan Tiwari, and Craig Wigginton share their perspectives on five key questions about the growing 5G ecosystem, its players, and its importance to enterprises.

1. What is the 5G ecosystem, and why does it matter to businesses?

Arpan Tiwari: The 5G ecosystem is expansive and has a lot of interrelated parts. Both the what and who need to be considered. The what includes the 5G network itself and the portfolio of technologies it enables—cloud computing, edge computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, among others. The who includes 5G players like telcos, cloud providers, equipment manufacturers, software vendors, and systems integrators. An effective and efficient ecosystem will enable organizations to address what we call “heart of business” issues in new and creative ways.

Craig Wigginton: 5G technology within the enterprise space is a game changer. It presents exciting opportunities for transformation across all industries. But connecting 5G ecosystem elements is complex, and no single company has the capabilities to deliver what’s needed end to end in an efficient way.

2. How do the 4G and 5G ecosystems differ?

Craig Wigginton: Let’s start with the difference between 4G and 5G overall. 4G was primarily focused on consumers; it provided better speeds for video, gaming, social media, and on-demand services—mobile devices became that portal to everything with 4G for consumers. 5G is focused on transforming enterprises and addressing far more complicated use cases. 5G provides even faster speeds, ultra-low latency, and better coverage across many, many connections. This hyper-connectivity is something that will transform enterprises.

Arpan Tiwari: With enterprise use cases it’s all about integrating different capabilities—sensors, cameras, analytics platforms, and the like—and stitching it all together in a low-latency environment. That’s where a lot of complexity exists and where the power of the 5G ecosystem comes into play because you will need to bring in 5G players with the right knowledge, capabilities, and the network to provide access points and high-speed connections across all the different technologies.

Wendy Frank: You also need to look at the 5G players from a cybersecurity perspective. 3G and 4G networks were built primarily on hardware, but 5G also includes use of the edge, cloud, and software. This means 5G has a larger attack surface with exponentially more to secure and protect. The ecosystem to support this evolution will grow proportionally with the technology.

3. Who are the 5G players, and what are their ecosystem roles?

Craig Wigginton: Broadly speaking, this is a huge potential group. The composition of an organization’s 5G ecosystem depends on the industry as well as the underlying use cases. Every case will involve core and niche players. Core players typically include network carriers, cloud and edge computing providers, chip manufacturers, traditional technology and security companies, and consultancies. Depending on the use case, niche players may include robotics companies, sensor manufacturers, AI companies, software app developers, and data analytics providers.

Wendy Frank: I agree with Craig. Organizations can expect to interact with large, tried-and-true communications and technology companies, but because 5G is an emerging space and evolving so quickly, there are a lot of small niche players that are developing new and innovative solutions. When we think about what it takes to design, operate, and protect these networks, it definitely calls for a combination of both. Additionally, with so many hardware and software components in an organization’s 5G ecosystem, interoperability testing by a trusted, impartial partner is going to be critical to make sure everything is performing properly and at the right levels.

4. How should businesses determine who is a 5G leader and with whom to engage?

Arpan Tiwari: This is an evolving, unsettled landscape, so it’s not like there’s one 5G leader; it’s going to be a contextual situation based on what each company is trying to do. It is important for enterprise leaders to be laser-focused on the business problems they are looking to solve—ecosystem priorities will emerge from that. 5G is complex, and while we are biased, we truly believe that organizations should engage a collaborative partner that can work with various technology and 5G leaders—core and niche—to fit the ecosystem puzzle pieces together.

Craig Wigginton: Assembling a 5G ecosystem requires consideration. It’s not a matter of evaluating one company or choosing a single 5G leader to provide an enterprise-wide solution. It’s a collaborative process that involves multiple internal and external entities. Which players will help support your near-term needs and long-term vision? Which will help you increase operating efficiency and effectiveness? I’d suggest targeting your partners in the 5G ecosystem based upon your specific use cases.

5. What do businesses need to consider as they start their 5G journey?

Wendy Frank: Organizations should be prepared for a multiyear journey to develop 5G use cases, select capabilities and vendors, test and pilot 5G, operationalize and maintain the network, and provide end-to-end security throughout. It’s important that enterprise leaders begin by thinking through all the components in a 5G ecosystem and finding the right partner to guide them through the process. They also should build in ecosystem security from the start. Bundling the offerings of multiple 5G vendors and technology manufacturers creates a lot of potential security holes.

Arpan Tiwari: Wendy is right. The first step is to figure out what the business wants to accomplish. Define the problem statement or use case that you’re solving for, and you can then create that view of the ecosystem. The second step is to decide which players to partner with to execute and deliver on your goal—even figuring out what you want to accomplish could involve external parties. If you’re going to use 5G as a catalyst to solve heart-of-business issues you need 5G ecosystem players who will help you bring everything together.

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