5G internet impact underestimated by business

27 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

The UK rollout of 5G mobile internet is set to get under way in 2019, with a growing number of telecomms providers stating they will launch their next-generation coverage by the end of the year. Despite the increasing buzz surrounding the new technology, however, a survey of executives has found a business community which holds rather downbeat opinions about the transformative potential of 5G.

Every decade or so, a new generation of network technology comes along that promises more speed, more capacity and more uses. With each generation, network operators invest capital to upgrade their infrastructure, with the firm belief that those investments will lead to more satisfied customers and reinvigorated revenues and profits. Following on from the launch of 4G in the 2010s, the next decade is set to see the rise of the 5G generation of new mobile technologies. EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three UK are among the telecomms providers to have already announced they will launch 5G services in the UK in 2019.

While previous generations have been understood in almost universally positive terms, the often complex definitions as to precisely what 5G consists of often causes confusion and, in some cases, cynicism. Indeed, a recent study found that 53% of business leaders see no near-term business case for the technology. While the leaps to 3G and 4G were more noticeable, 5G New Radio speed in sub-6 GHz bands is said to be ‘modestly higher’ than 4G, meaning many still believe networks can do well enough leveraging 4G, while implementing 5G is likely to invoke hefty movements of capital.

In response to this lingering scepticism, George Nazi, Global Lead at Accenture’s network practice, has argued that businesses are missing the point about 5G. Commenting on the state of play following the release of a new study on 5G by Accenture, Nazi said that breakthroughs in three-dimensional video, immersive television, autonomous cars and smart-city infrastructure are set to unleash opportunities that are difficult to imagine today, but will soon be transformative. If companies fail to plan for 5G, they could well miss out on these opportunities.

Nazi added, “The reality is that 5G will bring a major wave of connectivity that opens new dimensions for innovation and commercial and economic development… Telecommunications companies will play a pivotal role in bringing these prospects to light.”

Underestimating 5G disruption

Despite these apparent opportunities, the majority of the 1,800 executives Accenture polled remain unconvinced. 53% of respondents from the mid-sized and large businesses canvassed across industries in ten countries said that there were ‘very few’ things that 5G will enable them to do that they cannot already do with 4G networks. Meanwhile, less than two in every five executives expected 5G to bring any sort of  ‘revolutionary’ shift in terms of either speed or capacity.

There were notable differences in opinion across different sectors, however. According to Accenture, over half of respondents from the energy sector believed 5G will have a revolutionary impact with its ability to reach new places – like remote and inhospitable areas – something which can further boost innovative new techniques in the renewable sphere in particular. Compared with just 41% of all executives surveyed, this suggests that specific sectors likely have an altogether more positive outlook for 5G.

Slow uptake

One factor which might be hindering enthusiasm for 5G is that executives may simply not know much about it. While it is true that these same executives are unlikely to have truly understood 4G either, the fact remains that simply improving the product’s name to the power of one has ceased to impress business leaders enough to invest in the technology. Accenture found that almost three-quarters of executives needed help to foresee future 5G possibilities and use cases.

If the upgrade is to take off, then, its champions will need to work hard to address this. This need is further underlined by the fact that roughly six in every ten survey respondents blamed their lack of knowledge on communication service providers. These providers were subsequently slated by executives, who said they had not been made aware of specific challenges in different industry verticals.

Pivotal role for telcos with 5G

At the same time, around a third of respondents noted a number of other perceived barriers for 5G adoption, which they need to be convinced are worth facing. 36% of respondents predictably said upfront investment was their biggest hurdle to get past – the most sizeable minority of those surveyed. 32%, meanwhile, said security was a concern, and understandable qualm in an environment where many still struggle to protect data under tried and tested 4G systems. Employee uptake was also mentioned as a cause of concern to that end, with 30% of responses.

Despite this, Accenture’s survey still found significant cause for optimism on the subject of 5G. Anders Lindblad, Accenture’s Communications & Media industry lead for Europe, contended that despite the knowledge gap, there is excitement among business leaders about the value that 5G can bring to enterprises.

Lindblad added, “This value is currently trapped within the perceived risks and uncertainty around 5G, which can be unlocked by organisations that understand customer needs, can overcome barriers to adoption and can drive collaboration among service providers.”

Looking ahead, the analysis suggests that 5G service providers have a lot to be upbeat about, especially from 2022 onwards. As many as  70% of survey respondents said 5G applications will give them a competitive edge with customers after that point, suggesting that while uptake will initially be sluggish, it will pick up rapidly in the next three years.

On top of that, respondents also related that they were optimistic with regards to 5G coverage. Three fifths of all those surveyed said that they expect 5G to cover nearly all the population – presumably in their own national territories – by 2022, something which would give them rapid access to new markets across the globe in ways never seen before.

While only 46% of survey respondents thought 5G will be making its mark on speed by 2022, and 42% thought the same about capacity, there is a clear belief that eventually the technology will become indispensible. It just may take some time to do so.

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Red Consultancy drives interest in Schubert's formerly Unfinished Symphony

08 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

Strategic communications firm Red Consultancy collaborated with Huawei to demonstrate the potential of artificial intelligence. Huawei engaged an AI programme on one of its smartphones to help complete Schubert’s famous Unfinished Symphony, almost 200 years after the maestro commenced its composition.

Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759, commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony, is a musical composition that Schubert started in 1822. While the Austrian composer lived another six years, he left the piece with only two movements. The reason he left it unfinished – despite having made sketches some way into a third movement – continues to be discussed and written about, and has two centuries of classical music enthusiasts wondering what might have been.

Despite numerous attempts, it remains one of the most intriguing pieces of unfinished symphonic music of all time. Now, the world may finally have an answer to the conundrum of just how it might have ended, however, thanks to work from technology firm Huawei. The Chinese multinational ‘completed’ the piece, some 197 years after Schubert last set it aside, with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) running on one of the company’s smartphones.

By running an AI model from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone – which was designed specifically with AI-based tasks in mind – Huawei was able to analyse the timbre, pitch and meter of the existing first and second movements of the symphony, before generating the melody for the final, missing third and fourth movements. At this point, Emmy award-winning composer Lucas Cantor was enlisted to arrange an orchestral score from the melody that stayed true to the style of Schubert’s original structure. 

Walter Ji, President CBG, Huawei Western Europe, explained, “At Huawei, we are always searching for ways in which technology can make the world a better place. So, we taught our Mate 20 Pro smartphone to analyse an unfinished, nearly 200 year old piece of music and to finish it in the style of the original composer. We used the power of AI, to extend the boundaries of what is humanly possible and see the positive role technology might have on modern culture. If our smartphone is intelligent enough to do this, what else could be possible?”

The final, Huawei-completed piece was brought to life with a live performance at the iconic Cadogan Hall in London on the 4th February. The 67-piece English Session Orchestra performed to an audience of over 500 guests, showcasing for the first time this unique ending to Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, illustrating the potential of human talent augmented with AI in the process. On the back of this, Red Consultancy worked with Huawei on a viral marketing campaign to deliver the final product to millions of listeners across the globe.

Red Consultancy is a professional services firm which offers advisory services to clients looking for PR, digital and content expertise via its 140 staff in its Soho offices. The firm develops and manages campaigns, runs major press offices, and steers brands and businesses through engagement with media, consumers, customers, stakeholders and internal audiences both domestically and internationally. According to Red Consulting, its Huawei campaign has already resulted in over 11 million views of the Unfinished Symphony video content, from more than 1,500 pieces of international media coverage, and an estimated reach of nearly 900 million.

Commenting on the story, Maureen Conlon, Huawei Lead Director at Red Consultancy said, “Working with an ambitious brand like Huawei challenges us to consistently think outside the box and come up with truly unique and creative campaigns. For Unfinished Symphony, we worked with the client from initial ideation all the way through to activation and the Huawei team at Red Consultancy could not be more thrilled with the result.”

Related: Red Consultancy handed new role with Munchkin.