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5G Opportunities & Misconceptions: Where Partners Fit In Now

Digital 5G on smartphone

Will 5G deliver the businesses opportunities that some pundits are hailing? Or is it all overblown?

That's a question we'll be discussing at Channel Partners Virtual next month. Four industry experts will debate the topic, "Is 5G a Market-Maker or a Myth" on Wednesday, March 3.

The conversation will feature Phillip Walker, customer advocate leader for MSP Network Solutions Provider; Max Silber, vice president of mobility and IoT, MetTel; Nermin Mohamed, head of telecommunication solutions for Wind River Systems; and Ian Khan, chief futurist at Futuracy.

Channel Partners and Channel Futures editorial director Craig Galbraith will moderate the discussion.

Channel Partners debates have raised no shortage of intrigue. Our IT/telecom convergence forums have generated fascinating discussions between members of the MSP/agent communities.

We asked some of the panelists about their session.

Channel Partners: Which side are you taking in this debate – market maker or myth? 

Wind River's Nermin MohamedPhillip Walker: Super-maker. 5G turns promises into realities through speed, latency and scale.

Nermin Mohamed: We absolutely see 5G as a market maker because it will enable an intelligent edge. As a longtime provider of ultra-low latency and real-time solutions to telco as well as the industrial, transportation, and aerospace and defense markets, we see a real appetite for the types of solutions that are available with 5G. Some of us remember when talking on the phone meant we had to be close enough for the cord to reach. Then we got cordless phones that allowed us to be anywhere in the house, and now we can make calls from virtually anywhere with video. Similarly, industrial machinery has historically been made to last 30-plus years so much of what is on a factory floor is still tethered by cable, and it’s very expensive to reconfigure. There is some “unplugging” that is happening now, but it would be akin to the cordless phone – better but limited. The high bandwidth, low-latency features of 5G mean that a 5G designed factory floor would have the capability to reconfigure dynamically as needed. This is a massive shift and just one example of what 5G will bring. The 5G/Industry 4.0 survey we did recently told us there is a host of new technologies that manufacturers want to use such as analytics, AI, autonomous/collaborative robots and more that will only get more useful with 5G, which is why 5G beat out wireless networks, in-plant solutions and WAN technologies when we asked about preferred connectivity. There is a real desire for 5G because it will bring real value.

Max Silber: 5G right now is more myth than market maker. There are very few consistent use cases. It’s currently mostly considered a backup plan for locations that need a secondary circuit when broadband is spotty. Major industries have not embraced 5G en masse. 5G coverage is not yet ubiquitous or seamless. It’s coming down the road but not yet. Plus, the move from 4G LTE to 5G is not the quantum leap that 3G was to 4G. All that said, you can make smart investments in 5G devices that will pay off now and later. 5G-enabled devices will provide a better, faster experience using today’s LTE. And they will also support 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and millimeter wave in the future. So some 5G investments do make sense today.

CP: What’s a misconception about 5G that we need do away with?

MetTel's Max SilberMS: That 5G will immediately provide 1,000 MB speeds and ultra-low latency. This is not true in the real world for practical purposes. Bringing the signal indoors is still a challenge. Most people need it indoors — that’s where we live and work most of the time, especially during the pandemic. This will represent a market opportunity for value-added services when capability meets demand in the future.

NM: That’s actually partially covered in my previous answer. The misconception is that 5G is “just another G” and is about delivering high def videos to your phone. Yes, it will do that, but it’s so much more. I mentioned the intelligent edge; that’s what 5G enables. If you think about the internet, it made information readily available. All we had to do was search for it. It effectively increased our memory and broadened our scope of knowledge. The intelligent edge takes that a few steps further. By putting compute power close to the device and user, a 5G network will not just give you access to information, it will be able to anticipate the need for the information, curate it and react to it, which enables a new level of autonomy for machines and people. When machines are able to make their own decisions, it frees humans to do more innovative things. While I’m looking forward to hi-def videos on my phone, to me it’s the other stuff that’s more exciting about 5G.

PW: That 5G is going to change everything, 5G is an enabler to next-gen technologies.

CP: What’s one thing you hope channel partners will take away from your session?

MS: That 5G is a very relevant conversation to have with customers but important to share facts – a real strategy and deployment plan. Be a real adviser to clients. We at MetTel serve as trusted, strategic advisers to clients and a voice of reason. We don’t sell them what they don’t need. We recommend channel partners start by asking clients what is the specific business case they have for 5G. What application are they using that requires 5G speed and what infrastructure do they have to support that? If clients can’t answer that question, they probably don’t need it right now. If, however, they want to explore the logical possibilities, agents can bring us in to help in a consultative manner. One example of effective uses of 5G is in field services. Installing or repairing a new HVAC system may have required master technicians to travel from other states or counties, which is challenging when trying to maintain pandemic travel compliance. Using 5G in conjunction with an AR/VR APP is one way a senior engineer located remotely could guide a local junior tech on-site guidance to complete the install effectively at a lower cost than flying the engineer, and allowing the higher skilled master tech to focus on larger and higher priority projects. The result is improved productivity for higher priced employees and higher customer satisfaction.

Network Solutions Provider's Phillip WalkerAnd as I mentioned, 5G-capable devices will yield good results over the next 12–36 months, even on current networks regardless of 5G infrastructure progress.

PW: Look at 5G in a new light and start conversations with clients about next-gen networks and technologies.

NM: The largest growth will be for partners who are focused on digital transformation. That’s how you get started; you look ahead in your customers’ businesses and identify where you need low latency, real-time solutions and start creating solutions to solve those business problems coming down the road.

We have seen growth in telemedicine and transportation where the need is for low latency, where under 2 millisecond edge compute real-time operating with analytics is a requirement. At Wind River, the "far edge" deployments will allow business leaders to implement a platform to deliver new streams of revenues.

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