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More than half of UK businesses lack confidence to implement 5G

EY study finds 5G investment set to soar among British businesses, but the majority are not confident in their organisations’ ability to deploy 5G

The number of UK businesses set to invest in 5G solutions is set to soar from the current 15% to 70% in the next three years, but there is no commensurate uptick in confidence in successfully implementing them – nor indeed doing so without a major overhaul of their operating model.

That is the top-line finding of a new EY study, How 5G is redefining the world of enterprise, which surveyed 200 UK cross-sector businesses. The study found that most businesses (74%) believe 5G will enter the fabric of their business processes over the next five years. Of those investing in 5G today, most were still only in discovery and planning mode, with 61% either engaging in trials or in discussion with suppliers, rather than moving to the operational phase.

The study also indicated that UK businesses appear to be ahead of the curve on prioritising 5G, with 35% of respondents seeing 5G’s impact on business models as a focus area. This is compared with 28% worldwide. At the same time, 31% of UK firms viewed greater participation in 5G trials as a top priority, compared with 25% of global businesses.

Yet despite revealing UK business’s intention to deploy 5G, the survey found that less than half (44%) were confident they can successfully implement 5G-based internet of things (IoT), with only a quarter (25%) indicating that they do not need a significant overhaul of their operating model to realise implementation.

EY believes the caution may be driven by organisations’ lack of understanding of 5G’s benefits, including knowledge gaps around use cases and concepts (78%) and a perception of 5G as only an incremental progression on 4G or Wi-Fi (70%).

To overcome this challenge and reach the full potential of 5G, 5G providers needed to articulate a more compelling vision of the opportunity, while businesses need to educate themselves on the game-changing possibilities, said Praveen Shankar, EY’s head of technology, media and telecommunications for the UK & Ireland.

“UK businesses are keen to invest in 5G, but this is not matched by most organisations’ capabilities,” he said. “Success will require adapting existing strategies such as IoT to take full advantage of 5G and also understanding the links with adjacent emerging technologies such as AI [artificial intelligence].”

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The study further reveals that forming the right partnerships could be the key to unlocking 5G potential. As many as 79% of respondents believed they would require external support to generate robust 5G use cases, while 76% said they would prioritise providers that can deliver 5G business outcomes as partners rather than offering pure cost or technology benefits.

Notably, 61% indicated that their organisation was currently struggling to identify the right 5G provider, and 67% said their provider interactions to date have largely been transactional and tactical.

“It’s clear that enterprises now want consultative dialogue that delivers business outcomes through end-to-end solutions,” said Adrian Baschnonga, lead analyst at EY Global Telecommunications. “5G providers need to reinvent themselves as trusted partners, prioritising access to an ecosystem of competencies that can deliver 5G capabilities at scale.”

“Delivering actionable solutions that encompass the full spectrum of enterprise needs – from use case creation to cyber security – will be critical in the long-term.”

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