In and of itself, 5G represents an entirely new generation of telecommunications technology. 5G, with its impressive speeds, fewer latency issues, and heightened reliability — is set to surpass 4G many times over and will enable a remarkable array of offerings. This includes 5G's potential to solidify networks. At its core, the technology will help create stronger relationships between users, the devices they use, and the networks those devices run on. In turn, we'll have never-before-seen advancements in numerous emerging spaces and our interconnectedness as a whole.

Although it’s true that 5G's speed will enable a host of new use cases that will transform industries, the speed of adoption will be much more important from a business standpoint. When all is said and done, the winners of the 5G race will be the ones who get to tap into its transformative potential.

In fact, research from GSMA notes that 5G technologies have the potential to add a staggering $2.2 trillion to our world's economy in the next 15 years. But what will it take to get there? First, let's consider how 5G actually works and the players taking strides to implement it.

To ensure the ability to transfer significant amounts of data at high speeds — with low latency — and to meet the reliability 5G promises, companies will need to pour money into capital expenditures to bolster their networks of cell towers and make them 5G-ready. In the U.S., Verizon and AT&T are leading the pack by dedicating $35 to $40 billion; to their respective capital expenditures in this area. Japan and Korea have also taken massive strides here.

Of course, these massive capital expenditures are daunting unless they can be monetized, and leaders need to find the right technology services partners who can help them harness 5G's power and potential. That means collaborating with highly developed enterprises with the resources in place to reap big benefits from this promising technology.

Where Could 5G Play a Role?

5G's potential isn't just limited to cell service providers.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers, for instance, dream of cars that can communicate with one another on the road, making 5G a perfect use case due to its incredibly low latency. The network is also designed with reliability in mind — a critical consideration, of course, when it comes to vehicles.

Besides this, 5G can also keep us entertained in newer, more convenient ways. Historically, TV service providers have needed cable infrastructure in place to provide high definition in customers' homes. With 5G’s unprecedented data-transfer speeds, though, they can offer streaming in ultra-high definition over wireless networks. Offering augmented reality and virtual reality through 5G networks could also expand their capabilities. This could allow these technologies to fully integrate into the mainstream.

With speeds increasing by a factor of 10 to 100 depending on the previous network used, the shift to 5G will clearly be dramatic. Let's consider India as a projection for the future. When large areas of the country switched from 2G and poor-performing 3G networks over to 4G, data use exploded. The average Indian increased her or his data usage by 69% through 2018 — and by December, the figure had reached 10 GB per person, every single month.

We already know that 5G represents a wealth of opportunity. Its adoption will make it easier than ever to achieve greater strides in the future, and roadblocks to innovation will be lifted. However, the question of how to harness it most effectively remains. Forward-thinking chief information officers can prepare their organizations — and stay ahead in the race toward 5G — by keeping the following strategies in mind:

1. Think "mobile."

As per GSMA's report, manufacturing, utilities, and professional and financial services industries will benefit the most from 5G implementation.

Besides this, we're also seeing heightened connectivity across the globe. 1.4 billion people will start their journey with the mobile internet in the next seven years, meaning over 60% of the world's population will be mobile internet subscribers. This significant shift can't happen without movement from companies, though. To make this possible, they will need to invest nearly $500 billion in their mobile capital expenditures by 2020.

Consider, then, what 5G will enable in the mobile sphere and how it will bolster your brand in particular. Your customers can already do almost anything on their mobile devices, whether that's depositing a check through online banking, streaming video on demand, or even playing games with friends. Higher-speed networks will also enable further connectivity between electronic devices, giving you the opportunity to offer convenience and compatibility across entire product ecosystems.

In other words, expect 5G to give way to even more advances within these realms — and actively search for ways to leverage that evolution.

2. Explore new business models.

We're using mobile devices for an increasing number of transactions. In 2018, Forrester predicted that smartphones would be used in more of a third of U.S. retail sales. No matter what type of business you run, there's no ignoring this statistic.

Consider how your business model will change due to 5G's mobility. Keep in mind that your customer experience itself — and the way your company views it — will also shift.

Restaurants that are dine-in only, for example, should weigh the benefit of adding mobile carry-out for convenience's sake, and retail clothing stores should give customers the tools necessary to virtually try on products through AR. Gap Inc., for instance, developed their AR-based DressingRoom application so that customers could try on different clothing styles virtually.

Models such as these will both redefine customer experience — whether that's virtually or at brick-and-mortar locations — and provide merchandising opportunities that should benefit retailers and customers alike.

These new opportunities can impact your business' internal operations, too, as 5G will easily support remote, anytime availability. Because tools such as video conferencing and telepresence will be revolutionized through 5G's speeds, we'll see next-level internal collaboration. This should serve to boost productivity — and even improve work-life balance.

All of this, of course, warrants some internal conversations where you map out what your company and customers will need in the future.

3. See mobility as a differentiator.

Companies spanning many industries will be able to leverage connectivity to create differentiators.

Let's say you're a healthcare provider and your hospital beds are constantly occupied. Overcoming the physical infrastructure limitations that cause your problem would require a huge investment up front.

Fortunately, 5G will enable better virtual interactions between your doctors and patients instead of physical ones, allowing patients to recover and check up with their care teams in the comfort of their homes. By putting the moderate video quality and persistent latency issues of 4G networks behind, you'll offer more patients the care they need by serving them via high-quality telehealth. At the same time, your hospital and staff benefit from the expanded reach that would otherwise be impossible, and you'll open up more beds for patients in need of critical care. In turn, clinics, home care companies, and similar services can also differentiate and serve more patients.

This isn't just a hypothetical situation: Ericsson's report on 5G's business potential estimates that it will enable an additional $76 billion of revenue in the healthcare space alone.

Because processes and programs that could have never been linked previously will soon be interconnected, any enterprise should be able to leverage those new links to create their own unique advantages. Consider how this level of connectivity could unlock new possibilities in everyday work.

It's critical that CIOs view 5G not just as something limited to the telecommunications or service provider world. At its core, 5G represents a fundamental shift in technology that will impact the way we see and experience the world — and it has huge implications for enterprises spanning industries. Because of this, executives should consider the impact it will have on their companies, business models, and customer journeys.

To make the most of this top-notch wireless network and ensure their companies don't fall behind the pack, savvy CIOs should examine the impacts 5G provides: heightened speed, improved latency, and better reliability. Consider, then, what this technology could do for you three years from now — and map out ways to act on it today.

About the Author

Milan Rao

Milan Rao is a President at Wipro, a multinational consulting, technology, and business process services firm. In his role at Wipro, Milan heads the Communications and Manufacturing business units globally, and he also leads the marketing, innovation, and technology departments.

He provides oversight to the organization's CTO office, which contributes heavily to Wipro's innovation, research and development initiatives, technology-related strategies, and vision mapping, especially for new-age offerings such as 5G. In addition, he is a member of Wipro's Group Executive Council — a decision-making body supporting Wipro's group companies.

Because of his wealth of experience across industries — including technology, healthcare, telecommunications, consumer, and financial services — Milan is uniquely suited to contribute to Wipro's innovative projects and company transformation initiatives.