Cellular networks have become an important connectivity asset for businesses, allowing them to support mobile workers and devices that sit outside the enterprise. Despite the importance of connectivity, mobile networks have been limited in their ability to provide unique experiences for different types of users and apps connected to the network. 5G will have huge ramifications for what organizations can do over cellular connections and, as this is the first of four blogs providing an insight into how Cisco sees 5G’s future, it’s a worthwhile starting point to remind ourselves of the likely impacts of this new wave in connecting machines and people.

Clearly, 5G will be much faster than today’s networks but it will also be more reliable, more energy-efficient, capable of delivering high connectivity density and operating with very low latency.

5G’s network slicing capability is a means of providing a differentiated experience for users and devices based on the specific requirements of the environment they operator in. Together with the aforementioned new radio capabilities, slicing will offer the service levels, security, controllability, programmability and uptime that are needed for challenging and even mission-critical applications today. Network slicing leverages the virtualization of mobile network resources to allow the operator to create many logical networks with unique capabilities over a single physical network.

With 5G, the dynamic provisioning and scaling of network capacity and resources are available for the first time. The vision of managing the network-as-a-service in the same way as an application developer might manage cloud resources on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform is finally coming.

So, what does this mean in the real world?

5G’s speed and low latency makes it fit for the data glut created by bandwidth-hungry applications such as 4k video, AI-embedded devices and streaming analytics. But, more strategically, 5G opens new markets opportunities for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to address use cases that have specialized connectivity requirements: factory floors, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, fixed wireless connectivity to remote branches and sites, and beyond.

While the potential for 5G to introduce new MNOs to new markets is significant, it should be noted that the investment operators will have to make to deliver 5G networks will be equally significant. Ensuring a viable business case will require the operators to find opportunities to charge a premium over basic connectivity for the differentiated experiences that 5G enables.

MNOs need therefore to make clear the advantages of 5G in terms of its ability to enable new capabilities and business outcomes for business customers:

  • A sensor-driven manufacturing system that links to supply-chain peers and knows when parts need to be serviced or replaced (and might even be able to perform the task automatically).
  • Real-time collaboration, including video conferencing
  • An autonomous vehicle that relays status information to its manufacturer from every component – brakes, gears, acceleration, passenger games and entertainment and so on – for predictive maintenance, thanks to those aforementioned network slices.
  • Connected remote offices and sites that are located in inaccessible or rural areas.
  • Retail stores and malls that can deliver individualized augmented reality experiences offers and information for shoppers.
  • Security, including live video streaming for protection of people and assets

At Cisco, we see our role as enabling enterprise customers to extend their network boundaries and trusted security profiles to the edge of the 5G network, with role-based controls over who has access to what services. By providing decades of expertise on internetworking and by layering in network and security policy controls to 5G services we will go to market with MNOs to change the network. And change the world.



Kirk McBean

Director, Systems Engineering and Architecture

Service Provider