2021 Trend: The 5G Network is Really, Truly, Finally Here

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Over the last few years, enterprises have been in a situation uncomfortably akin to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick. Mobile phone carriers and tech pundits have chattered at length about an approaching milestone that will allow businesses everywhere to shoot for the moon and hit it: 5G. However, like Charlie Brown and the football, a 5G network was never realistically within reach for businesses. But that’s set to change in 2021.

5G Networks Enter the Mainstream

Carriers’ early 5G networks weren’t very fast because they bolted 5G on top of 4G or LTE networks. This gave us the connectivity, but not the speeds. This past year, however, carriers began rolling out their standalone 5G networks, which will bring both speed and connectivity.

Plus, there’s a sweet spot of geographic range of connectivity and solid speeds within the mid-band spectrum, and the federal government is planning to sell more of that spectrum to kickstart 5G adoption. Between this new spectrum, and the 5G networks already in many parts of the country (depending on the carrier), we’re finally getting somewhere. In fact, predictions indicate there will be about 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide by 2024. Many of these will no doubt kick off in 2021 as enterprises look to harness 5G’s lightning-fast data transfer speeds.

This is exciting news, to be sure. But an enterprise’s access to 5G will not come without a literal price tag.

Budgeting for 5G Device Upgrades and Expenses

Enterprise employees will need to upgrade to new mobile devices to use 5G, and most major phone manufacturers already offer 5G smartphones, or will soon.

Some employees’ current devices may be eligible for an upgrade right now, even if 5G connectivity is not yet available near their home offices or the enterprise headquarters. But as mainstream 5G gets off the ground, it’s poised to become available in most areas soon, from one or more carriers. And if 5G is already available in a region, it may make fiscal sense for some enterprises to roll out upgrades of 5G devices over each quarter of 2021, starting with the oldest devices.

That means an enterprise must gain an understanding of what technology assets exist within their organization, which devices are eligible for upgrades or soon will be, and which devices are more than two years old (as those employees would be first in line during a rolling upgrade). With the Tangoe Platform, an enterprise can see both of these things right within a centralized dashboard, giving the ability to create a customized plan for upgrades and device replacement.

Apple also just rolled out its 5G-compatible iPhone. Enterprises that use Apple devices can trade in eligible devices through the Tangoe Renew program and receive up to $400 cash back, or free AppleCare per device. This can add up to literally millions of dollars, which can be used to offset some of the upgrade costs (or any other expenses; the money is yours to do what you want with it!). The Tangoe dashboard also shows real-time market value for each device – another key tool when planning and budgeting for 5G, because you can estimate how much total cash you could be getting back.

5G’s costs won’t end with device upgrades. It’s also possible the plans may cost more, depending on the carrier. Some carriers may force subscribers into more expensive unlimited-data plans, increasing an enterprise’s mobile phone bills. Other carriers haven’t announced plan changes, but may still shift pricing models, according to CNET. Enterprises without unlimited data plans could end up paying more for employee data usage under 5G, because the network will allow multiple high-bandwidth applications to run at the same time without lagging or buffering. That means mobile plan costs are another line item to reconsider and plan for – and another area where Tangoe’s AI-driven mobile expense management solution can help enterprises prepare.

Pair a 5G Strategy with Smart Enterprise Technology Management

Apart from planning for the cost components of 5G, enterprises need a strategy. All that speed doesn’t mean much if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Enterprises could use 5G to enhance the capabilities of their mobile workforce, enable an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy, or even use it as a fixed line replacement. There is no shortage of options for a business, depending on individual goals. 

But all of these options have the potential to create out-of-control spending, in addition to the complexity they will add to overall IT management. Enterprises must pair a 5G strategy with a smart way to confidently manage existing assets, roll out new programs, and find savings, even within a more complex technology environment. With order management, invoice management, inventory management, expense management and bill pay capabilities, the Tangoe Platform can help enterprises plan for and overcome not only 5G challenges, but all technology management challenges.

If you need to overcome current and future challenges, mitigate risk, and see and control costs, we’re here to help. Get a demo of the Tangoe Platform today.