How 5G Can Impact Small Businesses

The impact of 5G on small businesses cannot be overstated. It will provide an all-around better mobile experience and greater efficiency, meaning your small business will be able to do more in less time and with fewer resources. More specifically, 5G means you’ll be able to connect more devices, experience faster and more reliable connections, strengthen security, and improve your business’s mobility in today’s remote-focused world.

What is 5G?

Essentially, 5G is the next generation (hence the “G”) of wireless technology. Previous generations have enabled wireless tools we take for granted now: mobile phones (1G), texting (2G), smartphones (3G), and streaming (4G). 5G won’t replace its predecessors; instead, it will be layered atop them as the latest-and-greatest member of the family. It will consolidate and amplify previous generations’ benefits while also creating opportunities for emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud to thrive.

Many wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon are already offering access to 5G networks, but most of these networks are the low- to mid-band frequencies of 5G and not the top band, called millimeter wave (mmWave). This is important because the user experience with the lower bands is sometimes indistinguishable from a solid 4G LTE connection. The true benefits of 5G won’t be felt until mmWave is rolled out to scale.

The highest frequencies are expected to take full effect later this year, with more applications and devices supporting 5G entering the market in 2022. There are a few bumps in the road, like coverage across large distances and in crowded areas, that need to be smoothed out before 5G is offered on a larger scale, but it’s helpful to understand the benefits ahead of time.

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Boost connection speed, reliability, and security

Perhaps most significantly, 5G will improve your experience with the devices you already use. It’s based on multi-access edge computing, which means you’ll have less lag time while doing anything with your computer or mobile device. (Think: 10 milliseconds of lag with 5G versus 40-50 seconds with 4G.) 5G can also support simultaneous bandwidth demands better than 4G, so the performance of one application won’t be noticeably impacted by another application that also needs to consume bandwidth.

The faster networks will mean your software-as-a-service (SaaS) products will also be more effective. Especially since cloud technology is becoming more favorable over on-premises solutions, this will be a game changer for your business processes. Everything will run faster and smoother, yes, but 5G will also enable SaaS providers to innovate and add new features to existing tools — a win-win.

Last but not least, data analysis and threat detection will be more sophisticated with 5G. This is because 5G will be mostly software-based, so cybersecurity can be automated and baked into virtually everything that connects to a 5G network. Automation means more efficiency, but it also means a threat can be detected and mitigated instantaneously, without much need for human intervention.

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Connect more devices

5G means you’ll be able to use technology to replace more manual processes. Inventory management, quality control, and supply chain management can all benefit from IoT devices, which will be enhanced with 5G connectivity. Additionally, field service workers like plumbers or construction crews can leverage IoT devices to collect and share data with a central office or other team members with the touch of a button. 

Increased connectivity also means your business processes will be more streamlined. Siloed teams will have more company-wide visibility, which can reduce duplicate effort and foster collaboration. This efficiency also benefits your bottom line. When online activities like processing transactions and monitoring supply levels are more efficient, you’ll have more time to focus on offline activities like brainstorming your next marketing campaign or responding to customer inquiries. Ultimately, this will increase your productivity and make your business more profitable.

Recommended: Using IoT to Improve Your Small Business

Improve mobility

Remote work is a trend that doesn’t appear to be reversing course anytime soon. In fact, some experts predict that nearly 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least 5 days per month by 2025. This poses an ongoing mobility challenge for businesses that are able to adapt to a remote work (or hybrid work) model. 

As mentioned above, the very essence of 5G means you’ll be able to connect with internal teams and customers whether you’re working remotely or in-office. This improved mobility can also have unexpected benefits for your ability to leverage the gig economy. In effect, 5G will make it easier to hire a remote-based expert for a special project or add temporary staff to lessen your burden during your busy seasons. 

5G will also expand accessibility to rural areas, meaning you’ll have peace of mind knowing you (or your business’s stakeholders) will be able to remain connected regardless of where in the world you’re located. Indirectly, this also means you’ll have more opportunities to connect with new audiences and expand your customer base into new territories.

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5G will add a competitive edge for small businesses

The early days of 5G are here and it’s already giving small businesses a greater opportunity to compete with large corporations. Mobility, connectivity, and wireless performance can have innumerable benefits for businesses of all sizes, but small businesses especially will be able to improve productivity and reduce costs to benefit the bottom line in the long run. 

The innovation that comes with 5G will only grow with future generations of wireless technology. 6G is expected to bring autonomous vehicles, immersive virtual experiences, and numerous other technology advancements into the mainstream. Although it’s still several years off, these will undoubtedly create more opportunities that your competitors might already be thinking about. When faced with the decision of investing in these new technologies, you must ask yourself: can you afford to be left behind?

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is the editor of Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive.

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