By 24 May 2024 | Categories: news


By Neil Gouveia, Director, Africa, Zebra Technologies

There was a lot of excitement as 5G made its debut in South Africa in 2020 with discussions revolving around the potential of unprecedented speed and connectivity. Many of us in southern Africa were excited about the myriad of possibilities 5G promised that would play a pivotal role in the growth of our economy.

The onset of the pandemic served as a catalyst for one of the most significant and rapid technology adoptions in recent memory. This included businesses recognising the necessity and benefits of utilising video calls for meetings, consultations, and service provision. Additionally, the massive adoption of online retail became heavily reliant on the increasing availability of internet access and digital payment options. Enhanced visibility across production lines, supply chains and logistics for manufacturers and retailers became more urgent, which required real-time tracking to reduce losses and delays.

5G continues to enable front-line workers in dynamic environments who need reliable and fast communication—from engineers in manufacturing plants and remote locations, to emergency scene healthcare workers, and logistics drivers out on the road.

Dialing in on the 5G Opportunity

Some 5G networks are public, and businesses can pay to have a slice of the band via an Access Point Name (APN) either in a specific area where they operate, or for a pop-up event allowing stores, logistics and emergency services to access fast connectivity as needed. Some 5G networks are private and specific to a company.

This might be needed due to the number of users, volumes of data being transferred over the network and privacy and security concerns. Network security, performance, speed and deployment, application performance as well as data sovereignty and privacy are some of the top reasons manufacturers are increasingly looking to implement private 5G networks.

5G can enable simultaneous connections to multiple devices and sensors, generating massive amounts of data, which can be processed by applications in the cloud or via edge computing. For instance, within the enterprise, 5G is expected to lead to the development of a seamless workplace IoT environment capable of supporting real-time collaboration between people, assets and devices across sectors.

5G-enabled mobile devices help workers get more done by putting 5G capabilities in their hands to execute tasks with greater efficiency, connectivity and accuracy – unlocking better mobility which is a cornerstone technology capability across many industries.

Modern enterprise tablets and mobile devices are a gateway to 5G networks for those on the front line of manufacturing and logistics. But it’s important that workers can still use 4G-enabled devices and other solutions until an enterprise migrates to a 5G network, and devices and solutions can be replaced with an upgraded enterprise device when 5G speed is needed.

A colleague told me about a customer who is moving away from some real-time locationing solutions (RTLS) and Wi-Fi standards in favour of 5G so different types of RTLS can be considered. 5G could also result in cost savings for business by reducing the volume of access points for the range of technologies they’re trying to deploy, including RTLS, machine vision, robotics automation and more. This same customer said that one metre of network cable costs thousands more, but with 5G, they need a lot less infrastructure.

More is being done to get industries on board with 5G. For example, in South Africa, handheld devices and tablets with 5G capabilities enable front-line workers in manufacturing, retail, warehousing, transportation and logistics to stay seamlessly connected in real time, regardless of their location or environmental challenges. This provides them with the tools they need to thrive in today's dynamic and demanding work environments. Better connected workers and digitized workflows could mean cost savings, thanks to greater efficiencies.

5G technology is helping drive automation in business and emphasising the need to visualise and analyse real-time data for swift decision-making at the front line. This progress has the potential to expedite African businesses, ushering them into the era of smart factories, efficient warehouses, and innovative digital healthcare solutions.

With the 5G pre-launch hype and pandemic behind us, we can hope for exponential 5G growth in the enterprise space with connected, digitised workflows that boost productivity and an optimised front line with 5G devices that enable new ways of working.

Learn more about 5G-enabled mobile devices here.


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