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5G to be 'revolutionary' - yet security concerns remain high

Concerns remain over 5G security, despite research showing the technology will be the most "revolutionary" network evolution yet. 

According to the results of a global study from Accenture,f our in five respondents (79%) believe that 5G will have a significant impact on their organisation —including 57% who believe that it will be revolutionary. In contrast, only one-quarter (24%) of respondents said they believed that 4G’s impact was revolutionary.
 
The research surveyed more than 2,600 business and technology decision makers across 12 industry sectors in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

However, this optimism doesn’t eclipse security concerns around 5G, which have grown slightly over the last year, the report says. 

Specifically, more than one-third (35%) of respondents in the most recent survey expressed concerns around the security of 5G, compared with 32% in last year’s survey. In addition, more than six in 10 respondents (62%) in the latest survey expressed fears that 5G will render them more vulnerable to cyberattacks, and businesses believe that most of the risk will begin at the user level, whether that’s devices or people.

The survey suggests businesses are thinking ahead to how to deal with these challenges, with three-quarters (74%) of respondents saying they expect to redefine policies and procedures related to security as 5G emerges.

5G costs and outlook

The cost of accommodating the changes that 5G will bring is also weighing on business leaders’ minds. In particular, the cost of operationalising 5G is a hot topic, and four in five respondents (80%) believe that the cost of managing their IT infrastructure and applications will increase. Meanwhile, nearly one-third (31%) still think that the upfront cost of implementing 5G will be too great.

 In addition, the study found that businesses are beginning to realise that they require external support to unlock 5G’s potential. For instance, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they 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 last year, from 23% in the prior-year survey to 14% this year.

 The survey findings indicate that, despite the challenges of 5G, the future looks bright for businesses embracing the technology, with businesses globally recognising its huge potential. The benefits are numerous, and awareness of them is growing. For instance, 85% of respondents said that they expect to use 5G to support mobile employees in the field within the next four years, up from 68% who said the same in last year’s survey. 

Ben Morgan, Accenture New Zealand Managing Director, says New Zealand businesses that are quick to adopt this new technology will have a competitive advantage over those who are slow to adapt. He believes the global research reflects the local situation and provides good insight into 5G considerations for business – both positive and negative.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the increased relevance of this technology as more people work from home and many businesses move their products and services online," Morgan says.

"5G represents a huge opportunity for Kiwi businesses. Super-fast download speeds, increased connectivity and low latency will enable businesses to seamlessly communicate and collaborate with partners and customers both domestically and around the globe.

“The introduction of 5G will alter consumer expectations and lead to a change in how businesses deliver services," he says.

"Support for products and services will increasingly be delivered by video rather than via phone or email. This will allow businesses to demonstrate how to use products and solve customer problems, creating even greater engagement between businesses and their customers.

“On the other hand, 5G also presents some security challenges such as user privacy, number of connected devices and networks, and service access and supply chain integrity, which business need to keep top of mind," says Morgan.

"In fact, we are already now contending with some of these challenges in light of COVID-19.”

Morgan says, "We expect business interest and awareness of this ultra-fast next generation technology to pick up following the Government’s allocation of 5G spectrum last month. 

"Having the right strategy and strategic partnerships will be vital to take advantage of the technology," he says.