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Security fears persist but businesses overwhelmingly see positive impact of 5G

Research reveals that future looks bright for enterprises embracing 5G technology, though with cost of implementation and security issues recognised along with huge potential

Even though a substantial majority of businesses believe 5G will be the most revolutionary network evolution they have experienced, many are still worried about the security implications of using the new infrastructure, according to a new global study from Accenture.

The Accelerating the 5G future of business report studied the views of more than 2,600 business and technology decision-makers across 12 industry sectors in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. It aimed to develop an accurate picture of businesses’ understanding of 5G, how they have adopted it so far, and what they perceive its potential impact to be. The interviews featured questions repeated from research published in 2019 – conducted in November and December 2018 – about the same topics, taking a deeper dive into security, consulting and monetisation for this year.

The survey findings fundamentally indicated that the future looks bright for businesses embracing 5G technology, with global recognition of its huge potential. The benefits are numerous, and awareness of them is growing. For instance, 85% of respondents said they expected to use 5G to support mobile employees in the field within the next four years, up from 68% who said the same in the equivalent survey a year ago.

As many as 79% of respondents expected 5G to have a significant impact on their organisation, including 57% who expected it to be revolutionary. In contrast to previous comms networks, just less than a quarter (24%) of respondents said they believed 4G’s impact was revolutionary.

Cost concerns

The survey also showed that the business leaders were already weighing up the potential costs of accommodating the changes that 5G would inevitably bring.

The cost of operationalising 5G was seen as a hot topic, with four-fifths of respondents (80%) believing that the cost of managing their IT infrastructure and applications would increase with the implementation of 5G technologies. Nearly a third (31%) thought the upfront cost of implementing 5G would be too great.
Businesses were also found to be realising already that they would require external support to unlock 5G’s potential. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they would need help to imagine the future possibilities for connected solutions with 5G, and the percentage of businesses expecting to develop 5G applications in-house has dropped over the past year, from 23% to 14%.

Sceptical about security

However, all of the optimism did not eclipse one huge concern regarding 5G: security. More than a third (35%) of respondents expressed concerns around the security of 5G, compared with 32% in last year’s survey. In addition, more than three-fifths of respondents (62%) expressed fears that 5G would render them more vulnerable to cyber attacks, and believed that most of the risk would begin at the user level, whether that’s devices or people.

“The link between 5G and its perceived security risks is complex”
George Nazi, Accenture

“The link between 5G and its perceived security risks is complex,” said George Nazi, senior managing director and communications and media industry lead at Accenture. “According to our study, executives believe that 5G can help secure their businesses, but that 5G network architecture also presents inherent challenges in terms of user privacy, number of connected devices and networks, and service access and supply chain integrity.”
For all this, the survey suggested businesses were thinking ahead about how to deal with these challenges, with three-quarters (74%) of respondents saying they expected to redefine policies and procedures related to security as 5G emerges.

“With the right business strategy and ecosystem collaboration, the signs point towards a world of compelling 5G use cases and business outputs,” Nazi added. “Communications service providers should act now to ensure they are at the heart of the 5G ecosystem to unlock the potential growth.”

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