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How will Ireland change with the advent of 5G?

09 February, 2021

The arrival of 5G in Ireland is heralded as the real beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The hype surrounding the technology would suggest that it will become part of our lives in ways that 3G and 4G have not yet done. But the question is how big an impact will 5G have on Ireland, and what will it mean for a post COVID-19 world?

dublin city center at sunset with samuel beckett bridge and river liffey

The key benefits of 5G

The fifth generation of wireless connectivity brings with it an era of radical new possibilities in many industries. It promises to increase innovation, efficiency and productivity for governments and businesses in a post-pandemic world. 

The main highlights of 5G are reduced lag times with ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC), higher bandwidth and download  speeds with Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMMB) and much improved streaming communications. 

Although these are the headline technical benefits at the outset, 5G will result in the advent of new markets and new ways of working.

The immediate impacts of 5G

Being able to access the full benefits of 5G depends on the capabilities of the device that the user has in hand. 

When 5G arrived in Ireland, the majority of users were using handsets that were 2G to 4G compliant. Some MVNOs weren’t offering 4G/ LTE to the user-base. Q4 2020 saw more 5G enabled handsets arriving in the retail sector. Big players such as Apple delivered its iPhone 12 and Samsung its S20 devices, joining Huawei and ZTE in the market. 

This proliferation of new devices with 5G  connectivity during the pandemic has a knock on effect for workers and service providers. 

The advent of COVID-19 has revolutionised how people work remotely and remain connected. The new normal of working from home may see more remote workers exceed the average 9.2GB per month in Q2 2020 in download allowances. This may mean that operators have to adjust their service offerings to cater for users requiring higher monthly download limits than currently available. 

A blanket working from home policy has led to home broadband services becoming congested. As a result, people are tethering their 4G-enabled devices to compensate for deficiencies in connectivity.

Fixed line broadband speeds were providing up to 30mbps for 70% of the population according to ComReg’s Q2 2020 quarterly report. Such speeds and  bandwidth may not be capable of supporting multiple users per household who might be running video streaming for online meetings, VPNs, constant email checking and multiple other devices connected to a home router. Remote workers who have 5G handsets could use their devices, not traditional home broadband, to connect to work and make up for the deficiencies in connectivity speeds. 

There is a strong possibility that telecom operators' traditional fixed line broadband services may be cannibalised by 5G.

The future is here now

Traditionally, new technologies introduce new products to the market. The introduction of GPRS/ WAP in the 1990s meant that it was possible to use the internet on mobile devices. The introduction of 4G brought streaming services to handsets. What innovations will 5G deliver, and in what sectors?

Industry analysis suggests that healthcare will be a significant beneficiary of fifth generation connectivity. Unlike 3G and 4G, 5G will be able to connect thousands of devices connected to a central hub rather than hundreds of humans connecting separately. Such machine to machine interactions will lead to an increase in automation and real time response to human requirements. For example this should provide patients with real-time, personal responses without the need to visit a GP surgery.

The use of virtual reality and multimedia streaming can support workforce upskilling. People learning from home could provide an employee base to support new industries and opportunities as they arise and help the country to digitally transform.  

Technologies such as Robotic Process Automation will become more advanced and embedded into financial services, healthcare and other data dependent industries such as oil exploration. 

The use of 5G will allow systems to assimilate vast quantities of data without human input. They can provide accurate decisions or more efficient processes as and when required. 

According to a recent PwC global 5G report, Financial Services will be disrupted with the advent of AI-powered robo advice and Insurance companies may use drones as a means of inspecting insured risks.

From an economic perspective, Amarach Research highlights that 70% of SMEs in Ireland expect 5G will support a turnaround in the economy.

Managing the risks associated with 5G

The evolution of new technology brings about new risks. New ways of processing data and the integration of servers, the cloud and end user devices introduce unknown complexities. 

The architectural structure of 5G is different to that of 4G. With more access at the Edge, there could be more risks for 5G networks than previous generations. New services, new products and new devices utilising the new technology may introduce unknown risks. 

From the outset, operators and vendors should balance the risks presented by new complex technology with the benefits it brings to the economy and the post COVID-19 world. 

How to prepare for the arrival of 5G and harness its benefits

Identify what has been disrupted by COVID-19

The past year has seen significant impacts and changes to business and operational models in Ireland. In many cases, revenue streams have had to move platforms in order to survive. What can be moved online and what can be adjusted to adapt to the new technology offerings in Ireland? 5G offers a new, fast, reliable and secure platform for companies to offer traditional products in new ways or to offer new products that maximise the new technology.

Prepare for the new opportunities that 5G brings

5G allows companies to examine how they operate and how to migrate to new ways of working, doing business and communicating with customers, suppliers and peers. Geographic markets, product offerings and even ways of doing business can all change when companies adopt 5G. Collaboration will become more prevalent in a connected world, unlocking new revenue streams as barriers are removed with seamless integration of operations of companies. As machine-to-machine (M2M) communication develops in Ireland, it is inevitable that 5G will increase this way of doing business.

Identify how you can embed 5G in your organisation

The implementation of 5G in an organisation can be a driver for cost reduction. It can increase automation in operations and network management. Telecom operators could use 5G FWA rather than FTTP to increase network coverage for broadband, especially in rural regions. They could achieve this for less capital and operational investment than traditional fixed line fibre connections.

Another benefit of 5G is the enhancement of customer experience. Leveraging the speed and low latency of the technology presents companies with the opportunities to provide seamless remote, VR and AI experiences.

We are here to help you

The rollout of 5G across Ireland will bring new opportunities and challenges for businesses. The potential impact across industries is enormous, but to realise these gains, you will need a strategic approach. To help you understand how 5G can benefit your organisation, contact us today.

Contact us

Pat Moran

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 5308

Amy Ball

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 5836

Neil Redmond

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 6746

Soumyadipta Das

Senior Manager, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 6458

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