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The world enabled by 5G is on the horizon. AT&T and Verizon have already started rolling out their 5G networks, using a combination of new and existing technologies, such as WiFi, LTE, etc. These 5G networks promise speeds north of 10Gbps, which means they are capable of delivering an online experience that is at least 1000 times faster than what we are used to today, with 4G.

If you believe the hype, the faster connectivity, lower latency (in the order of single milliseconds), increased throughput, and greater resiliency of 5G will put the online experiences we have today to shame. To put it in perspective, with an easily understood example, think of how quickly a 2-hour HD movie can be downloaded. Today, with a good connection, you can probably do it in around 4-6 minutes, but tomorrow, on a 5G network, that same 2-hour HD movie can be downloaded in about 20 seconds.

This speed is nice, but the innovation and advancements 5G makes possible are fantastic. The World Economic Forum describes ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing as the springboard of the fourth industrial revolution, where people and things are able to connect and interact in ways that were never thought possible.

It’s not just the stuff of science-fiction novels – intelligent robots, self-driving cars, neural enhancements, genetic editing, and environmental regeneration – it is also the more mundane applications that have the potential to be extremely powerful for individuals, businesses, and communities. The apps and services that enable people in far-reaching corners of the world to fully participate in the knowledge economy and companies to dramatically improve the efficiency and agility of their organization may be the biggest disruptors that come out of 5G.

The Downside

As with anything that promises great things, there is also the potential for downsides as well. It’s likely that new privacy and security concerns will manifest and there will be unforeseen consequences that will need to be addressed, at both an individual and collective level. To benefit from all the possibilities of 5G, we have to be prepared to deal with all its challenges. We will need to figure out how to establish good governance and defend against breaches, which can now cause havoc in a very short amount of time, to stay safe.  

What to Expect

As 5G projects have been announced by various carriers and network infrastructure providers, we, at Egnyte, have been looking at the changes it will bring to the file services platform space. Due to increasing speeds, we expect an explosion in the volume of rich media – high-resolution images, and HD videos will likely become commonplace. The need to transcode videos for streaming formats will become less important, as higher speeds and throughput will eradicate buffering issues in players. Users will most likely expect richer previews for these richer content types and start to demand fly through previews at original resolution.

Increased throughput will allow multiple activities to take place concurrently on local devices, with large files uploaded in chunks across multiple connections. We will need to process all of this rich content during transfer, running machine learning (ML) processes concurrently to generate different forms of the content for different purposes (such as OCR, concept extraction, summarization, etc.).

We will also need to look at how to manage and protect all this content. The attack surface in the 5G world will be greatly expanded, as content creation increases, so does the potential for exposure. It will be more important than ever to have unified visibility and control over content, users and access permissions, at all times, regardless of where they are located – in the cloud, on-premises, on endpoints or in transit. In-depth analysis of non-documents will also become essential.

Network slicing could give us the ability to create multiple, virtual SDN-like networks over a single physical network, which would open up some intriguing possibilities. We could use dynamic virtual networks to span a dynamic set of nearby devices to perform a given task. With the ability to sling data at high speeds, virtual teams should become more popular and effective. This will hasten the spread of online collaboration and content generation applications.

What can you do to prepare for the future?

5G has a lot of promise, but it will be a long, phased rollout, with each step providing an incremental improvement over the previous step. Plus, there’s even some debate about the practicality of a full 5G deployment outside of more densely-populated areas.

So, in the short-term, most of us won’t be rushing to cancel our internet service and switch to 5G, but it’s quite possible many of us will down the road. The best approach, for now, is to review and adjust your device/hardware refresh cycle so that it aligns with how YOU plan to take advantage of all that 5G has to offer. Keep in mind, that if you need/want the added flexibility and speed of the early 5G phases it will cost you, so make sure the benefits outweigh the higher costs of being an early adopter.

Here at Egnyte, we are looking to the future and already adapting to the exciting technology changes promised by 5G. Going forward we will continue to extend our support of rich media, to ensure previews, content extraction, metadata extraction, and search are easily accomplished within the real-time speeds of a 5G environment. It is all about online, always-on access to content, increasingly via mobile apps, that can also protect that content, no matter where it is stored.

We recognized that synchronization products will probably be less important for content acceleration use cases but remain a key capability for those intermittent and offline connectivity use cases. Ultimately, we see that, since 5G will presumably draw less battery power, running content analysis and security enforcement directly on devices will likely be possible. This will enable us to take our collaboration and data protection capabilities to a whole new level and ensure businesses can work better and safer from anywhere, using whatever new 5G apps or devices they choose.

CTA: Stay tuned for the next blog in our series to see how Egnyte is embracing 5G

In the meantime, click here to learn more about the Egnyte secure content platform.