PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

5G: The Future IS Now

By at 19 February, 2020, 9:39 pm

Small Business Insider

5G’s power and impact will be transformative across industries and for all kinds of businesses. What’s most exciting is the new innovations and business models that will emerge, most of which we currently cannot imagine.

By Karen Kerrigan

Entrepreneurs are excited and ready for 5G. The new opportunities, tools, industries and innovations that will emerge from this next generation of mobile networks will be transformative for small businesses. That was the message I brought to the event “5G: The Future Is Now” at the AT&T Forum for Technology, Policy and Entertainment on Capitol Hill on February 11.

The event, hosted by AT&T and attended by policy leaders, business association representatives, Capitol Hill staff, think tank leaders and the media, started with an exciting keynote by Mo Katibeh, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for AT&T Business Marketing. Mo provided a tutorial on 5G, presented its use cases across industries, along with a glimpse of how 5G will transform sporting events, as currently being enjoyed by fans at AT&T Stadium located outside of Dallas, Texas.  According to Mo, AT&T will offer 5G nationwide as early as mid-2020.

With respect to 5G’s impact on entrepreneurship and for small businesses, I – along with my fellow panelists – noted the following points:

● Each new level of connectivity made possible by the next “G” has brought extraordinary benefits for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and 5G will be no different. It’s power and impact will be transformative across industries and for all kinds of businesses.

● 5G will bring digitization to many sectors, and dramatically improve productivity and efficiency for small businesses. What’s most exciting is the new innovations and business models that will emerge, most of which we currently cannot imagine. There will be new products and services yet to be invented.

● 5G is definitely about speed and low latency but it is also about the opportunity to meaningfully engage with customers and employees and to strengthen and fully leverage these critical relationships through the innovative tools that 5G enables.

● For example, customers will experience and interact with the products, goods and services offered by small businesses through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  Shoppers will be able to try on pieces of clothing digitally in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Appliances, furniture and home décor will be brought “into” the consumer’s home to view how they look or fit in a room. These are the types of 5G technologies and tools that will be available and affordable for small businesses.

● Small businesses will benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT), as embedding sensors across business operations will improve workflow, allowing managers to track inventory or shelf space in real time, along with deliveries, customer orders, manufacturing processes, etc.

● Managers and business owners will be able to more effectively train and guide employees offsite through seamless video communication. That means workers across industries – from construction to roofing, landscaping to painting, home decorating and health care services – can better meet customer needs and reduce errors (which saves small businesses money). Employees will have more job satisfaction through this direct engagement and training.

● On a basic level, speed and seamless connectivity will make small businesses more competitive. 5G will also introduce new choices in wireless services. The average download speed in the U.S. is 6.5 megabytes per second. With 5G, speed increases to 500 megabytes per second.

Of course, many other exciting points were covered by my fellow panelists – John Godfrey, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Samsung; Karen S. Rheuban, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Senior Associate Dean for CME & External Affairs Director, UVA Center for Telehealth; and Shailesh Prakash, Chief Information Officer, The Washington Post – and I encourage you to watch the recording of the livestream here to understand how 5G will impact the business environment and how small businesses and consumers will benefit.

5G Deployment: Challenges and Opportunities

Thankfully, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken a series of positive steps to accelerate 5G’s deployment. Under Chairman Ajit Pai, and with significant leadership provided by fellow Commissioner Brendan Carr, the FCC has advanced several initiatives to streamline outdated regulatory procedures in order to lower barriers and costs for deployment, and to make needed spectrum available for auction. However, more needs to be done in both of these areas, and unfortunately red tape, bureaucracy and misguided policy being pursued by some state and local governments are delaying 5G’s rollout.

SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan recently recorded a podcast about our 5G future. Listen in by clicking on the image above.

During the panel discussion, I noted that this is a huge competitive problem for certain states and localities, as the lack of action or unreasonable actions being taken that serve to thwart 5G deployment, undermine the local small businesses who operate in these jurisdictions.  As I said at the event “investment will flow to where 5G is enabled.”

States and localities that “get it” are well ahead of those areas that are working to impose new taxes, or maintain outdated regulatory barriers and broken permitting practices, which all serve to delay deployment.

More than $275 billion in private sector investment is needed to fully implement 5G nationwide, and it will not flow to areas of the country that make it costly or difficult to deploy. Again, pro-business and forward-thinking states are moving very quickly to capture the investment dollars that are needed to build-out 5G infrastructure. More investment, businesses, jobs and people will then follow, as the 5G advantage will attract all of these.

Workforce readiness and availability are also key challenges. As I mentioned during the panel discussion, access to skilled employees is already a major issue for most businesses across industries, and filling the gap of workers that are needed to build 5G infrastructure and to service these networks will be a significant challenge. For example, it is estimated that the industry will need 20,000 tower climbers to install equipment, and tens of thousands more to build-out 5G infrastructure. This is a small business issue as well, given the fact that the telecommunications industry is dominated by small firms – 83.1% of employer firms have less than 20 employees and 94.8% have less than 100 employees.

The President’s new budget unveiled last week makes note of this challenge on the first page. As I said at the event this is the one critical area where federal dollars can make a difference by leveraging current training programs, including 5G apprenticeships already in the works and additional ones initiated by the private sector.

The 5G future is now, and all policymakers must understand what’s at stake. China is moving quickly on the 5G front, and we cannot allow outdated thinking and policy habits to get in the way of providing U.S. workers, small businesses and citizens with 5G tools and technologies that will help them succeed and improve the quality of their lives.

Preparing for 5G

What should small businesses need to do to prepare for 5G? That’s a great question, as entrepreneurs and small business owners often face complicated decisions about how and when to upgrade or invest in technology.  But because small businesses are “small,” they can get a head start on the next wave of disruption.  5G’s deployment will be gradual and work alongside LTE and 4G, and the business and tech experts I talk to say the time is now to begin plotting a 5G strategy. Here are some basic tips I have gleaned from those conversations:

● When thinking about new IT purchases or projects, you will want to make sure the technology is “forward-compatible” and can transition to 5G.

● Identify things that your business can do more quickly (if you currently had the speed and power of fast, seamless networks) in order take advantage of 5G’s immediate value – cost reduction opportunities, improved productivity and efficiency.

● If you are using cloud services, you may want to begin thinking about (or actually transferring) other core business systems or services into the cloud, which will allow you to take advantage of virtualization. If your businesses does not use the cloud, start taking advantage of these services.

● Talk with your team and peer groups about 5G, and how it may impact every aspect of your business. How will you be able to improve the customer experience? How will seamless video, AR and VR add value and assist in recruiting, training and retaining employees? Do you need all your office space? How will 5G technologies allow your business to enter new markets, or innovate new products and services? What else can be digitized to totally transform your business and free up human capital to sell, innovate and grow?

5G will provide extraordinary opportunities for small businesses to better compete, scale and go global. Yes, moving from one transformative technology to the next certainly offers challenges, but there will be big opportunities for entrepreneurs who embrace the changes and plan ahead.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

 

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