The promise of 5G for the enterprise and beyond

There are two key sets of opportunities for the enterprise with 5G, according to a new PwC study.

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5G offers two key opportunities for the enterprise, according to a new PwC study. With some estimates showing that 5G will spur $1 trillion in global GDP over the next three years, the technology is not something that businesses can ignore.

The first main opportunity is a chance for companies to innovate in their own operating model and the way they use mobility to serve employees, such as field repair technicians, customer care employees, and even those in data visualization. The second opportunity involves using 5G to drive additional revenue and profit.

"There's a lot of new opportunities that 5G could bring to help the workforce," said Dan Hays, principal at PwC.

5G can drive additional revenue and profit by allowing companies to find products or services to support their customers and grow their revenue base, Hays said.

SEE: 5G technology: A business leader's guide (Tech Pro Research)

"One of the more interesting examples that I've seen was someone taking a restaurant menu, something we all interact with fairly regularly, and saying, 'What if I made this restaurant menu truly interactive?' You could take it and utilize virtual reality or augmented reality technology so that you can experience the dishes, see them in 3D, interact with them, understand ingredients, and think about all the opportunity to really change the customer experience for a restaurant," Hays said. "We think that now is the time for a lot of enterprises to really be thinking about how they're going to use 5G because they're going to have to get ahead of it in terms of developments that they may need to undertake."

The level of interest in 5G

Awareness of 5G needs to improve, the study also shows. Only 46% of respondents were familiar with the term "5G" without prompting. More urban residents (50%) were familiar with the term than rural residents (40%).

But once respondents were made aware of the potential of 5G, they were excited about the promise. Some 33% said they would be willing to pay more for 5G internet service, and 31% said they would pay more for 5G service on mobile devices. Respondents said they would be willing to pay an extra $5.06 a month for 5G internet service in the home, and an extra $4.40 a month for 5G internet on mobile. Yet, only 26% of respondents said they would rush out to buy a new mobile device if it was required for 5G service.

Age played a factor in 5G interest. Consumers under age 40 are most likely to first adopt 5G in their homes and on mobile devices. The study showed that 66% of respondents under 40 said 5G is "very appealing" compared to 57% of respondents age 40 and older. Younger respondents, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, were willing to spend more on 5G internet to achieve faster speeds.

SEE: How 5G will transform business (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

"That's because they are typically those that have grown up as what many people call digital natives. They live, eat, breathe their connectivity," Hays said. "They understand the value of the faster speeds."

This could affect the adoption of 5G when it is initially rolled out.

"From an enterprise perspective, we're potentially going to see a bit of a divergence. Many enterprises, when they adopt a new service, they try to roll it out to all of their users. Here, you have a situation where some enterprise users, particularly those in the younger demographic, may demand the service perhaps before the enterprise is ready to adopt it. And that could be because it could be in multiple geographies, and maybe 5G isn't available everywhere yet," Hays said.

What 5G means to the enterprise

Businesses will need to adopt 5G technologies to stay relevant.

"We think that 5G is going to require some very clever marketing to better convey the value proposition to consumers, to explain why they should be willing to pay more for a service that is faster and more responsive than they have today," Hays said. "But then even more importantly perhaps, we think that this is an early indicator that the rollout of 5G may be slower than had been previously anticipated. And we're hearing that from the service providers, the equipment providers as well."

Methodology: During September 2018, PwC surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18-64 who have access to the internet via an online survey conducted by a global research firm.

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