How 5G will affect jobs in 2020 and beyond

There's no doubt that the disruptive nature of 5G will change how we work—but what will change, and should tech professionals be worried?

5G is here, and as we enter a new decade it is poised to be one of the most life-changing technologies to come around in decades. The technology is even growing faster than initially thought, which means more businesses and individuals will have access to it in less time than we imagined. 

In short, there are a lot of big changes coming down the pipe and they're coming fast.

Most of the discussion surrounding 5G focuses on what effect it will have on how the world does business, or how consumers interact with technology. That leaves out a major segment of people who 5G may actually have the greatest effect on: Workers.

5G promises big changes in a lot of industries, and those changes can be seen at all levels of the chains of business. That means professionals that work with technology, from the helpdesk to the OEM factory floor, are all going to feel the effects of 5G. 

What 5G means for your job

Bill Menezes, mobile enterprise analyst at Gartner, said whether or not you feel the effects of 5G largely depends on the specific kinds of work you do.

"5G is going to be much more transformative for some businesses than others," Menezes said. Different types of businesses will approach 5G in different ways; for some there won't be much change at all, and for others 5G will be huge.

Take for example an automotive dealership: The mechanics there may start using AR goggles to help with repairs—now IT has to learn to support the actual goggles and the 5G cellular network they're connected to.

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (free PDF)

Beyond examples like this predictions take over. One of Menezes' biggest predictions for 5G is that we haven't even thought of the ideal use case yet. "When 4G came out no one imagined getting an Uber; it took familiarity with new technology before its most important uses appear," Menezes said. 

That familiarity is going to take time, Menezes added, because wide-spread use of 5G is probably still five to seven years out. Private 5G networks are already appearing in the enterprise for a variety of applications, and it's changing how those businesses operate. 

Preparing for the future

With novel, innovative uses of 5G still years off, knowing how 5G will transform work for the average tech or IT pro is hard to discern. That doesn't mean you can't prepare, though. 

Menezes recommends spending a hefty amount of time learning about 5G infrastructure, as knowing how the new generation of wireless networks are built will make it easier to see where it can be applied for a particular use. 

He also recommends learning directly from 5G service providers, many of whom offer incubators, test environments, and other programs to learn about their networks.

Also plan to study security: "5G will add a lot of new touch points to networks, and every one of them is a potential attack vector," Menezes said. 

Along with learning how to secure a 5G network, tech pros should also learn about data security. As businesses use of 5G grows and businesses start passing sensitive data over public connections it will be increasingly important to know how to secure data in transit. 

5G may have arrived, but don't panic: We have several years to prepare for all the business, work, and life changes it will bring. Just be sure to start preparing now so that you can be ready when it reaches your neck of the woods.

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Image: iStockphoto/sarayut