A 2021 Outlook for 5G Adoption

Predicting what might happen in 2021 might be a bold move, given all the unpleasant surprises 2020 had in store for us. But some predictions are safer than others — for example, increases in 5G adoption are all but guaranteed by both consumers and enterprise sectors. 

Mobile carriers and tech giants have been teasing us with 5G capabilities on the horizon for years. As 2020 has progressed, those promises have finally started materializing, and in 2021, we can expect to see truly explosive growth. 

What’s So Great About 5G?

Why have so many mobile users been eagerly awaiting the day when they could access the benefits of 5G? In a word: speed. From both a consumer and enterprise standpoint, the increase in speed is a game changer. 

Clocking in around 10 gigabits per second, 5G will offer an improvement over 4G of more than 600 times. That’s 10 times faster than Google Fiber’s standard broadband home-based service.

If you’ve ever wanted to download a 4K high-definition movie in less than half a minute, your wait is over. 5G-equipped IoT fleets will empower enterprises to gain unprecedented control and oversight into their operations, from anywhere. 

The promises of 5G are undeniably exciting, but are consumers buying the hype? Indications point to a resounding, “Yes.” Customers can’t wait to get their hands on the latest generation mobile devices. 

Ericsson is forecasting a sharp increase in 5G users over the next year or two. As 2020 winds down, there are around 12 million 5G smartphone subscriptions, but by the end of 2021, that number should rise to around 84 million. A year later, we can expect some 645 million 5G users worldwide. 

5G and Enterprise Infrastructure in 2021

All the major mobile device producers and mobile carriers are moving full steam ahead with their 5G offerings — but how will 5G impact enterprise infrastructure in 2021?

Following the tumultuous financial impact of 2020, some enterprises are looking toward 5G adoption with some trepidation. On one hand, the upgrades in speed could revolutionize the way large companies work and the products they can create. 5G opens up more opportunities for edge computing and automation across the board. 

On the other hand, enterprises will need to make huge investments into their network infrastructures to fully benefit from 5G.

Enterprises facing budget concerns in 2021 will have to carefully weigh the potential benefits offered by 5G against the initial cost outlay. In addition to expensive device upgrades, service plan pricing will increase — often quite significantly. They’ll also need to shift at least some operations to the cloud and invest in IT resources to meet the more complex demands these teams will face, especially as it relates to AI

At a certain point, the choice won’t be theirs to make, of course. 4G will fade away, much like the 3G did in the early 2000s. The question will become when, not if, enterprises will take the leap. For many enterprises, the answer will be 2021.