How Hong Kong businesses can become 5G-ready

June 19, 2020 08:37
Photo: Reuters

5G connectivity isn’t “the final frontier,” but it’s still a new frontier for business. Hong Kong is geared up for 5G with big telecom operators having kicked off commercial services in April. Just like deep space exploration, however, enterprises taking full advantage of 5G requires significant preparation and a dash of courage to navigate successfully.

Deploying 5G technology helps enterprises speed innovation and improve the efficiency of their operations and the quality of their services. Hong Kong is starting a subsidy program offering nearly 100 qualifying projects up to HKD $500,000 each to facilitate this process, eventually increasing the overall competitiveness of the city.

Nevertheless, though these initiatives are a positive sign, Hong Kong enterprises need to think about the back-end changes and overhauls to take advantage of the benefits of the new protocols and even physics of 5G. What potential pitfalls do IT professionals need to watch out for and what strategies can they adopt to make the transition to 5G as seamless and painless as possible?

Real-Time Monitoring
Without sufficient preparation for 5G, IT experts may be forced to dedicate unplanned resources to solving connectivity and stability issues while staving off transformation pressure from the business. For many organisations, this may also result in speculative, wasted budget spend.

Thankfully, monitoring improvements should lessen 5G teething pain, and businesses can carry over lessons learned from the first modern wireless data platform—4G/LTE. Near-real time monitoring remains the first line of defence for mobile IT, providing data to identify bottlenecks and unforeseen capacity limitations as a patchwork of 5G coverage comes online. Applications may function differently depending on frequency, base station density, and transient mmWave interference. Furthermore, new options like end-to-end network slices and dedicated IoT networks will present novel volume and traffic variety. Reliable service delivery over these links will be impossible without infrastructure and end-user monitoring to help untangle evolving unknowns.

New Frontier Security Challenges
Security also presents a challenge, since 5G’s unique advantages are likely to add new security requirements for administrators and CIOs. This dovetails with the findings in the latest SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT, which found the top security skill tech pros in Hong Kong believe they need to develop is network security.

For starters, 5G’s dependence on ultra-dense base stations to overcome mmWave physics may create a larger carrier AP attack surface, exposing additional vulnerability points for networks. This is coupled with a greater deployment of business-wide IoT devices, greatly increasing the number of deployed rarely-patched or uncatchable, cyberattack-vulnerable devices. The need for useful security analysis and monitoring will be greater than ever with 5G.

Leverage User Experience Data
During 5G adoption, proactive businesses will have an opportunity to prevent initial early-adopter customer frustrations from boiling over. 5G has set high expectations—infrastructure and handset investment will be significant, and despite sharp engineering, there will be typical early problems with service delivery. With a proactive stance, however, IT pros can prevent many poor user experiences and help customers become partners in the success of new 5G applications. Monitoring tools are great for problem alerting and troubleshooting, but even better when used to prevent problems and delight users. And happy user word-of-mouth can be powerful marketing for your brand.

Detailed performance data for emerging technologies is a strategic asset for organizations as well. User experience data can inform IT strategy for business applications, and even provide supporting details to help improve current and future 5G products. Lastly, increased visibility allows IT teams to deploy all manner of cybersecurity defences and critical alerting from the network core to firewalls and beyond.

As with any new technology or innovation, “unknown unknowns” will always lurk in the background for 5G. Useful monitoring of the network from source to destination will be key, helping IT teams troubleshoot immediate issues while becoming experts in 5G application delivery. Though the person in the captain’s chair sets the course, IT safely navigates the ship to the destination. Enterprise IT will set the direction for business and the future of 5G, always going into the beyond with eyes wide open.

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Head Geek, SolarWinds