Impact of 5G on cloud computing

Future trends

This article is part of our 'Future of cloud computing' series.  Click here  to learn more about cloud computing, and it's impact on the modern workplace.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile internet, following 4G and 3G. It has us techies excited because it's capable of much faster data download and upload speeds than any past mobile internet.

That doesn't just mean people can download videos a lot faster. The truth is we're still just figuring out exactly how much potential this technology has for businesses and consumers. 

The only thing we know for sure is that 5G has the power to drive digital transformations that'll define the 2020s.

Where is 5G available in the UK?

5G is widely available, but it isn't nationwide yet. Like 3G and 4G, the initial rollout of 5G has started with parts of select towns and cities. 

The good news is that all popular network operators offer 5G in 2021, and it's already available in 90 major towns and cities.

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What is so special about 5G?

Latency

Latency is a measure of how long it takes a network to respond to a request, like a click to load an application or open a file. 

It's important because a network has to respond to a request before anything starts loading/downloading. Because of this, slow latency can make a a cloud computer on a fast internet connection feel slow.

Why bring this up? Because 5G can respond at speeds around 1ms (milliseconds) - that's 60x faster than 3G and 35x faster than 4G. 

At those speeds, connections will feel lag-free to users and make cloud computing viable in more time-sensitive scenarios (more on those below).

Accessibility

A major benefit of 5G is that it makes high-speed internet more accessible to households. If you live in an area with a 5G signal, you'll be able to use 5G for your home internet. 

All you'd need to do is plug a 5G router into a power socket, make sure it's connected, and you'd be ready to start using superfast internet - no phone socket connection required. 

With high-speed 'trench internet' options like fibre-optic broadband, the process is a lot trickier.

If fibre hasn't been installed in your area already, specialist engineers will have to dig up roads and lay fragile cables down, which is expensive and disruptive. This isn't required for 5G. Instead, routers connect to 5G networks wirelessly through towers.

So, not only is 5G a high-speed internet option, but it'll make cloud computing and fast internet accessible to more households. 

5G Speed

How fast is 5G?

5G can theoretically reach download speeds between 10-50GB/s. In 2021, the reality is a little slower.

Fastest UK 5G download speed in 2021 

753+Mbp/s

5G vs 4G speed

Even though 5G isn't as fast as it could be in the UK, these speeds are still exciting. Let's compare them with other internet options in 2021 to give you some context:

Average UK 4G speed in 2021 

24.15Mbit/s

Fastest UK 4G download speed in 2021 

39Mbp/s

4G vs 5G download speeds

Winner: 5G (by a long, long way)

5G vs Broadband speed

Average UK Broadband speed in 2021

71Mbit/s

Fastest UK Broadband speed in 2021

1140Mbp/s

Broadband vs 5G download speeds

Winner: 5G (a little closer this time)

Given that the fastest UK download speeds for broadband are significantly faster than 5G, this might seem like a strange decision. However, 1140Mb Mbit/s is only available to less than 3% of UK households

Using average speeds as our measure rather than fastest (remember, 5G has theoretical speeds of up to 50Gbit/s) - it was only fair to give it to 5G.

Cloud computing internet speed requirements 

We've covered different internet scenarios, but how fast does your internet actually need to be for practical cloud computing?

Here's an overview of Microsoft's recommended internet speeds for four different cloud computing scenarios:

Cloud computing - required bandwidth v2

This suggests that most average internet sources in 2021 could comfortably manage cloud computing. 

So what's the benefit of all the extra speed and bandwidth you get with 5G? 

Productivity

Any worker that accesses large files on a day-to-day basis will win back a huge amount of working time with 5G.

A worker using 5G in 2021 could download large files 6x faster than someone using 4G, and 2x faster than someone using broadband. Over a working week, that time starts to add up.

Synchronisation

 If you keep all of your important work files on your desktop, then swapping to an on-the-go device doesn't make sense.

You'd end up wasting time downloading your most up-to-date files to your phone or tablet instead of getting things done. With 5G, that's not an issue anymore. With download speeds between 10-50GB/s, you could download your files in seconds with 5G and stay productive.

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Current impacts of 5G on cloud computing

Every sector has different challenges and goals, so the impact of 5G on cloud computing is naturally felt differently. We've collected the most transformative use-cases we've seen for each sector and grouped them below:

Impact of 5G on cloud computing in healthcare 

Impact of 5G on cloud computing in healthcare-1

One of the most exciting applications of 5G on cloud computing is in front line care.

For example, as part of their 'connected ambulance' concept, the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust recently performed the UK's first demonstration of a remote-controlled ultrasound scan over a public 5G network.

In it, a hospital-based clinician could watch, guide and make a diagnosis from data in real time based on an ultrasound exam in a moving ambulance. 

You can read a full breakdown of the demonstration here, but this cloud computing application could be groundbreaking if used nationwide. 

Ultrasonography is the second most common diagnostic test in the NHS, with 9.5 million performed annually in England.

If specialists could support field tests remotely then patients would have a better overall experience, and the NHS would need fewer ambulance journeys or emergency department visits to deliver essential care.

Our NHS technology experts wrote this other article about how cloud computing
is transforming UK healthcare (and it's pretty great)

Read up on NHS innovation (or keep scrolling)

The impact of 5G on cloud computing in energy and utilities

Impact of 5G on cloud computing in energy and utilities

For energy and utility companies, 5G cloud computing can help address the industry's biggest challenge: the great crew change.

Most large companies in the sector acknowledge that up to 50% of their engineering workforce will retire in the next few years, taking essential skills and decades experience with them. New hires have a ton to learn, and their work is only getting more complex.

To prepare, organisations need to find new ways of supporting less-experienced field workers on maintenance tasks. 

That's why so many organisations are coupling 5G cloud computing with industrial wearables like RealWear Head-Mounted tablets. With them, new hires can use a hands-free camera to record their work and video-call a remote, experienced worker for real-time advice. 

Technicians can also use integrated AR apps and a hands-free operating system to reference technical documents, visualise data and log incidents with machinery.

Finally, with fast 5G download speeds, technicians can download the huge technical documents required for field work on the go and access remote support to resolve issues quickly and effectively.

In a nutshell, they can take decades of expertise with them everywhere they go and be much more dynamic in the field. 

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The impact of 5G on cloud computing in financial services 

Impact of 5G on cloud computing in financial services

90% of banking executives ranked a 'customer-centric business model' as a top priority in the last 12 months. The reason? Because fierce competition in the sector has made new customer acquisition a challenge in retail banking. 

To become customer-centric, banks are working hard to remarket themselves as 'meeting needs' not 'pushing products', and 5G cloud computing has an essential role to play.

The impact of cloud computing in financial services - quote

According to Equifax, theft is the most commonly reported crime at crowded events. The most frequently stolen items, wallets and phones, also happen to be the most popular payment methods.

Imagine you'd lost your card and phone at a festival, and you saw a pop-up tent for your bank advertising instant support. By offering help when you needed it, that bank would win a HUGE amount of customer loyalty.

Through 5G cloud computing, that's entirely possible. With it, banks can deliver a complete branch experience at temporary locations. 

That means offering wireless cashpoints, self-service kiosks, employee telepresence, teller systems, WiFi and video surveillance at any venue - from music festivals to disaster-affected areas. 

AT&T are already working hard to make this possible in the US, and the UK will soon follow. 

Future impact of 5G on cloud computing - Hybrid Work

Based on this 2021 Microsoft survey of 31,000 workers, the future workplace will be a hybrid one. 

70% of respondents want to keep flexible remote work options available, but still crave more in-person time with their teams. 

Employers are taking note too, with 66% of surveyed decision-makers considering an office redesign to accommodate hybrid work better.

Because of this, we believe the future impact of 5G on cloud computing will be to bridge physical and digital workplaces.

Office space isn't limited to the office. Through 5G, and cloud computing solutions like Modern Desktop on Demand, leaders can equip all workers with the tools they need to stay productive wherever they are. That could be working from home, the manufacturing floor, the office, or on the go. 

Conclusion: Evolution today, revolution tomorrow

So what is the impact of 5G on cloud computing today? Well, like any new technology, 5G has teething problems. But, like 4G and 3G before it, the solution to these problems will come in time. 

Considering 5G is still in its infancy and its already 6x faster than 4G and twice as fast as broadband, it has huge potential as a disrupter in the workplace.

Cloud computing already surged in popularity during 2020, and 5G could very well be technology that makes services like Modern Desktop on Demand the norm in the workplace.  

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