Suffolk Chamber Survey: 5G Is Critical, Raises Questions About Business Awareness
A new survey from the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has identified how vital mobile connectivity is to businesses and, therefore, its importance to their operations. Still, the results also highlighted a concerning lack of awareness about exploiting these technologies, raising worries that some businesses could get left behind.
Suffolk Chamber’s businesses responded overwhelmingly (92%) that mobile communications infrastructure should be considered an essential service, with 40% stating that mobile connectivity is critical to their operations.
While its importance and availability were well-understood, knowledge about how 5G could be exploited was limited. Only a fifth of businesses reported a high level of understanding of the technology’s capabilities or building it into their growth plans. Of those surveyed, just over 20% responded that it was just a gimmick or questioned whether it would impact their business.
5G provides a huge technological leap in mobile technology, not just in speed and latency but also in its capacity to connect many more devices. With the growth in connected devices (the Internet of Things), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine-to-machine connectivity, the results of this survey suggest there is still a wide gap in understanding among the business world about how it will impact companies across the UK and the wider economy. Further, there remains a stubborn but incorrect view that mobile connectivity is simply about mobile phones, limiting business involvement and/or engagement in this vital technology.
Much of what we do is already underpinned by how connected we and the devices we use are. This trend grows yearly, with data growth rising by 40% annually. New industries and ways of working are popping up every day to exploit these capabilities. Mobile connectivity also offers huge potential to increase productivity and reduce costs. The pandemic highlighted new working patterns and remote working opportunities. Those businesses not on the bandwagon risk being left behind, which is why the survey results highlight an element of concern.
Of those companies surveyed, only a fifth (20%) stated that they understood the opportunity and that they knew that 5G is important to their business growth plans. Further, while two-fifths reported that their business couldn’t function without mobile data, this rose to over half when looking to the future. These results also highlight that those that have grasped the capabilities of mobile connectivity and 5G are already exploiting it.
One example of a company already exploiting the capabilities of 5G is Suffolk’s and UK’s largest container port at Felixstowe, which has reached a significant milestone by becoming the largest UK port to deploy 5G technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). Specifically, the port uses 5G for the predictive maintenance of quay cranes using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and providing communications for remote control yard cranes.
Six of the port’s quay cranes were fitted with IoT sensors, enabling the port to understand the daily stresses and strains placed on the cranes. The technology’s low latency, high speed and high-capacity nature allow data transfer in real-time, enabling ‘in the moment’ safety-critical applications. Cambridge University has also enhanced the system by developing an algorithm to predict equipment failure and suggest the optimum time to maintain the equipment. Finding problems before they occur could save the port millions in maintenance and further reduce the risk of failure allowing the port to continue operations 24/7 and ensure the UK can continue to compete globally.
Commenting on the survey, Gareth Elliott, Director of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, said:
“Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s survey results point to a clear view from the business community that 5G mobile connectivity is critical to their operations. However, they also highlight that to ensure all companies benefit, awareness levels must be increased or risk many being left behind.”
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s Head of Public Affairs & Strategic Communications, added:
“This survey is a clear wake-up call to national and local decision-makers: raise awareness of the transformative potential of 5G to business, prepare the planning system to effectively deliver the required infrastructure and ensure that politicians are vocally supportive. As a result of this initial research, Suffolk Chamber is convening a ‘summit’ bringing together the county’s senior council chief executives, leaders and planners with Mobile UK and representatives of the operators to agree a strategic approach to 5G rollout, especially along our nationally important growth corridors.”