4G, 5G and All The G’s That Have Come Before

5 Questions Enterprise Leaders Should Ask When Developing a Mobile Technology Strategy

2G/3G Sunset Means Evaluation of 4G and 5G Migration Strategies

In their 2020 Annual Internet Report (AIR), Cisco projected that by 2023 there will be three times more networked devices on Earth than humans and that 71% of those humans will be mobile subscribers.  If there was any uncertainty around those figures, the global pandemic’s acceleration of many organizations’ remote work, learning, and communications strategies helped us all to realize how accurate they may be.  So now that the “future of work” has simply become “work”, enterprise technology decision makers are challenged to ensure productivity remains high while the technology that enables workers is not cost-prohibitive.

Central to this challenge is the need to accurately calculate the cost/benefit equation of a network and device strategy that utilizes the “right” generation of mobile connectivity.  Though mobile operators actively promote the benefits of 5G and remind us that 2G networks are widely shut down, setting an evolution path for employee, customer, and other IoT devices is not as simple as selecting the technology that is the most current.

With 2G devices becoming closer to obsolescence and 3G devices set to quickly follow suit, how can you determine when it’s time to start upgrading and to what degree?  We offer five questions that every technology manager should ask to aid in making that determination.

1. Which network operator provides my wireless service?

Schedules have a tendency to shift, but this Overview of 2G & 3G Sunsets may help to determine the urgency of an upgrade strategy based on the current status and expected support timeline for your chosen operator’s network.  If most of your devices are 3G and the 3G network will become unsupported this year, it’s time to get moving on a 4G or 5G migration plan.

2. Where am I?

Or more importantly, where are your end-users or connected devices? 4G networks are fairly ubiquitous at this point but 5G is still rolling out.  It’s again important to know your carrier’s plans not only for shutting down legacy networks, but for deploying their latest one.  While 5G may offer benefits in terms of bandwidth, latency, and security, those things don’t matter if there’s no network accessible to you or if 5G only partially covers the locations where your devices will be.

3. What applications are we running?

If your business will truly benefit from additional bandwidth and low latency (dependent on number of devices you’re connecting, amount of data you’re transmitting, and how quickly you need it), then 5G is likely the answer.  If your daily business does not require real-time video streaming, a high concentration of devices with a lot of data being transmitted, or other applications that would be taking full advantage of 5G technology, you may be better off looking at a 4G strategy that could reduce costs.

4. If 5G makes sense, does it make sense for everyone?

Similar to knowing which applications are going to benefit from 5G connectivity, it is important to recognize which users will.  Those two things are probably not mutually exclusive in most organizations.  In short, if you’ve made the determination that 5G is needed to enable some areas of your business to be most effective, consider if everyone is using those applications or if there are some early adopters that may benefit more now while others may be migrated later.

5. Can I retrofit my existing devices?

Before you throw away your 2G and 3G devices and make the move directly to 5G, look for retrofit options that can extend the life of what you’ve already got deployed.  The cost savings from a retrofit strategy versus a full replacement strategy may be significant.  The same thought will need to be given to whether retrofitting should focus on achieving 4G or 5G connectivity, but either may be a good bridge solution with a positive ROI.

An ROI-based approach to your wireless strategy

Ask the above questions to take an objective, ROI-based approach to setting your organization’s connectivity strategy and maximize the benefits to your users in both the short and longer terms.  Evaluating all options on the road to 5G may keep users and devices connected to optimize cost of ownership and maximize operational efficiency.