Being connected – as individuals and businesses – has never been more important, and with technology advancing every day, the need for the fastest broadband possible becomes greater.
Nicola Mortimer, commercial director, Eir Evo, says: “Connectivity has become essential to all aspects of life, not just for consumers, but for businesses too. Covid highlighted, even more, the criticality of connectivity for survival. Covid-19 moved life online.
“To operate a business, broadband is a requirement – but not just any type: high-speed reliable broadband. Connectivity is essential to aid digital transformation and businesses cannot afford to wait to be part of the digital market.”
5G is the newest iteration of broadband to be rolled out, with features including “higher speed, lower latency, and better reliability”. Mortimer says: “5G can deliver significantly faster speeds than 4G, and can be a real alternative to fibre, a backup to fibre and as a supplement to fibre to cater in areas of poor fibre coverage. Today many businesses are benefiting from a combination of fibre and 5G forming the backbone of their software-defined wide area network [SD-WAN] technologies.”
Karl Duffy, head of enterprise and public sector at Three Ireland, agrees. “5G is a game-changer but not just because it’s so much faster. There is definitely a dramatic speed upgrade which will be the first big difference we will experience but far from the only reason why it’s game-changing. There’s a lot to the technology that is less obvious or will reveal itself as time goes on.
“5G Broadband, for example, offers fibre-like speeds and capacity, it’s fast and easy to set up, and affordable for scale and targeted installation. As well as this, a lot of enterprises are situated in hard-to-reach locations (think manufacturing, logistics, agriculture) so instead of having to accept the weeks and months of a fibre build they can get a 5G broadband connection up and running in days.”
That’s not all, he says. “Lastly, a more ‘futuristic’ feature of a 5G network [as opposed to a 4G one] is its ability to be what we call ‘sliced’. This is incredible, because it effectively means you can have the same 5G network with dedicated ‘slices’ enabled to do different things without interfering with one another. The use cases for this technology are essentially anything where you don’t want network congestion for critical purposes.”
With the National Broadband Plan not expected to be completed until 2027, and Covid-19 pushing many workers to work remotely, having broadband access across the whole country is more important than ever. “5G can deliver ultra-high-speed broadband in suburban and rural areas, supporting homes and businesses”, says Mortimer. “With higher speeds and lower latency, employees know they are supported for remote working and can rely on high-quality video calls, on the go, making virtual collaboration easier.”
There are an estimated 12 billion devices connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) – essentially a network of physical items fitted with sensors, software, and other technologies and connected to the internet – a figure expected to more than double by 2025, says Duffy.
“Research from Amárach found that consumers and households will drive a big part of the growth, but the bigger contributor will be the adoption of IoT by businesses including smart buildings, smart energy, smart manufacturing, and other applications.”
In light of Ireland’s recovery post-Covid, Duffy says technology and connectivity will continue to play a leading role in terms of jobs, connected lifestyles, and the transformation of many industries such as energy management, medicine, transportation, and security. The IoT will also help with sustainability as it can help businesses become more sustainable through using sensors to deliver more efficient use of water, electricity, heat and cooling.
Mortimer explains that the effect of IoT on business is still mostly in the future. Innovations such as driverless cars and remote surgeries – while in development with proof of concepts – have not gone mainstream yet. “Consistent low latency, indoor and outdoor coverage are essential for the likes of autonomous cars and remote surgeries to come out of the labs into everyday life.”
However, 5G will be able to support these innovations when they do come online. “5G was designed to support the IoT. The benefits of 5G are numerous,” she says. It can enable real-time remote team working, with a faster, more reliable connection. This is particularly vital as hybrid working becomes a more permanent feature of our working lives, she says.
“5G isn’t just about faster connectivity; this is next-generation technology that brings with it the power to unlock innovation and benefits for people, businesses, education, communities, and governments.”
For a world that runs on data which increases exponentially day after day, 5G’s ability to handle this is a major benefit. What 5G specifically offers that 4G doesn’t is “the ability to have focused and high-speed connections with low latency and massive capacity, meaning huge volumes of data can traverse the network without any issues”.
Duffy says that being able to slice 5G means “one slice could be running a critical application” and another could be used for visitors or workers to the site with no network interference or congestion.
“The really exciting thing is that I don’t think we’ve yet uncovered the best use cases yet and that’ll come in time. The limit with 5G and digital is in many ways the limits of our imaginations.”