Previous generations of mobile connectivity have largely targeted handsets but that’s all about to change. The opportunities created by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) are too significant for businesses to ignore. But, to deliver on these opportunities businesses need a secure, reliable communication infrastructure that provides anytime, anywhere, anything connectivity. Enter 5G.

Designed to meet these demands, 5G will open up new market opportunities in business to business (B2B) applications. Indeed 5G in the UK, in the end, will be all about B2B rather than consumers. In this future world then it is vital that businesses are ready, are thinking about how they can take advantage of these new possibilities to grow. As I discussed in my previous article “Why We Need 5G” research by BCG/GSMA showed that leaders in mobile adoption outpaced revenue growth by a factor of two and added jobs eight times more quickly than those who were slow to adapt. UK business therefore need to embrace 5G technologies now, as it’s developing, or risk being left behind by more adaptable competitors.

The first commercial 5G networks are being rolled out this year, it’s happening, so this is a crucial time for business. Unfortunately, many UK businesses are ignoring 5G, thinking it won’t affect them. It will. It represents one of the biggest disruptions we will ever see, possibly even bigger than the Internet itself so, they need to act and act now. Those that can adapt to this new paradigm will thrive and prosper; those that don’t may face a bleak future.

One of the key things to understand about 5G is that although there will be a new 5G radio, 5G is actually radio agnostic. It can use any wireless or wired interface that is available to it, be that 3G, 4G, WiFi or even LoRaWan, to deliver the required performance. As such, and as covered in my previous article “The Road to 5G”, 4G will play a big part in the roll out of 5G for some 15 or 20 years to come so, the deployment of 5G radio is not necessarily the pacing item for adoption. The big change in a 5G world is actually the deployment of 5G core networks. The virtualization of the core network through Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) will revolutionize it and make possible network slicing. It is this technology that will create the tailored, virtual networks that business applications require to work effectively and create a new paradigm of connectivity. 5G will not be a switch that we throw; it will be a gradual evolution. The way to 5G will be paved by the on-going development of 4G through 4G LTE Advanced and 4G LTE Advanced Pro (so called 4.9G) so it’s possible to start development now. This new world then is not about specific radio technology but anytime, anywhere, anything connectivity – “Ubiquitous Connectivity” and that changes everything.

The opportunity for UK businesses is not about enabling a 5G network but using it. Operators and existing telco partners will build the network, what UK businesses need to understand is what will they do with it? What new possibilities will ubiquitous connectivity deliver and how can they be exploited to create new products and services? The message for UK business then is clear, don’t wait. The time is now, ubiquitous connectivity is coming and companies need to look at how it will change their business models and how they are going to adapt to the disruption of 5G because if they don’t, competitors will.