There is no doubt that the scalability, speed, and connectivity offered by 5G have the potential to fuel innovation and transform enterprises. This potential is driving the adoption of 5G in the enterprise market which is projected to grow by $71.45 billion from 2021 to 2026 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.55% according to the latest market report by Technavio. While enterprises are eager to harness the power of 5G, the technology does come with some challenges and limitations.
Here’s what enterprises considering deploying 5G need to know:
Securing enterprise data will be more challenging
The hyper-connectivity of 5G has the potential to introduce unique security vulnerabilities in organizations, making security a prime concern for enterprises considering deploying this technology.
The transition to 5G coupled with massive numbers of IoT devices (projected to reach 41.6 billion by 2025), cloud-based deployments, and third-party applications all add up to a significantly expanded attack surface. 5G’s lightning-fast speed also means these threats will evolve faster and move more quickly.
In a report on Potential Threat Vectors to 5G Infrastructure, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that as new 5G components and technologies are developed and deployed, new weaknesses will be discovered. The agency also cautioned that “without a continuous focus on 5G threat vectors and early identification of weaknesses in the system architecture, new vulnerabilities will increase the impact of cyber incidents.”
Enterprises considering 5G deployments must level up their cyber hygiene. That means making cybersecurity best practices part of organizational DNA. An article authored by EY Cybersecurity specialist Tim Best noted that “multi-layered cybersecurity must be prioritized and built into the foundations of 5G adoption, which is why it’s important to work with a trusted partner.”
As enterprises adopt 5G technology, working with partners and vendors that take a gold standard approach to cybersecurity is critical to ensuring data is protected and investments in 5G technology are optimized.
Coverage may be uneven
Lacking infrastructure, most rural areas won’t have 5G service until after buildouts are complete in more densely populated urban areas. One expert noted that “the cellular carriers will be beefing up cellular networks in urban areas using 5G technology, but that may never come to rural America in the same manner—the key characteristic of 5G is to take advantage of multiple, closely placed cell sites, something not likely to be cost-effective in areas with low housing density.”
Uneven 5G coverage can impact the viability of enterprises located in rural areas, hurting the business’s ability to compete in today’s digital environment.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to address this issue, establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America which will make available up to $9 billion in federal subsidies over the next decade to bring voice and 5G broadband services to unserved rural areas.
Deployment costs can be steep
5G is expensive and devices that support the technology are currently limited. The hefty investment associated with deploying 5G is slowing the adoption of this technology in some enterprises. According to research by global business consulting firm Protiviti, 91% of the 183 executives surveyed indicated that cost is the most significant barrier to 5G adoption.
Companies that want to build a private 5G network will need to purchase spectrum from mobile network operators (MNOs), or third-party spectrum providers. They will also need to purchase 5G compatible equipment such as base stations, mini-towers, and small cells from network infrastructure providers to replace legacy network components. Training and hiring are other cost centers associated with 5G as operational teams will need to be hired and/or trained to monitor and maintain the equipment.
While 5G holds much promise for powering next-generation enterprise transformation, companies considering 5G deployments will need to consider challenges and limitations related to security, coverage, and costs.