How 5G Will Enhance Field Service Operations

5G will provide field service organizations with higher speeds, full coverage, and options to use new technologies and devices.

The first phases of the 5G rollout have begun, representing the first steps in reengineering the telecommunications industry for new purposes. “1G and 2G focused on voice and mobility,” Marc Price, CTO of MATRIXX Software, explains. “In 3G and 4G the network was updated for data packets. With 5G the network is preparing for a diversity of devices, and IoT.”

Price points out that there are different components of 5G. The rollout is beginning with radio, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. In the early stages, however, the network will still use a 4G core.

“The more compelling part of 5G will be when the packet core becomes 5G-ready,” says Price.  “It will enable the packet core to be ‘cloudified’ and act as a next-generation data center.” Price says when these standalone 5G networks are deployed, it will ignite a massive change.

“Providers will be able to slice data centers to address specialized purposes, such as systems that require ultra-low latency, and elastically scale specialized functions for new business cases for a range of enterprises and for consumers,” he says.

Telco providers will also begin operating more like internet companies. With the help of companies like MATRIXX, they can create zero-touch environments that allow customers to onboard themselves — choosing plans, setting up service, and selecting the feature they want. They will also have the ability to provide customers with usage and charges in real-time. “5G will need to support process changes as well as technology to be successful,” he says. “It will mean a new way of doing business.”

For end-users, 5G will enable enhanced multimedia at faster speeds, but more significantly, it will support:

    1. Ultra-low latency
    2. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and uses cases such as autonomous vehicles
    3. Industrial IoT

We’ll see new business models, new devices, and a wealth of ecosystem partners that will provide Network as a Service in ways we haven’t seen before,” he says.

The first standalone 5G networks will be deployed in 2020, with most service upgraded by 2021. It will, however, take until 2022 or 2023 for most businesses to see real benefits.

The Impact on Field Services

Field service or sales teams that now contend with spotty coverage and lost signals indoors or in remote areas will enter a new era. “5G spectrum coverage addresses both of those things. Field teams will have better coverage and speeds everywhere,” he says. Additionally, in the later stages of the 5G rollout, organizations will gain the ability to support greater automation and dynamic responsiveness.

“Today, it sounds like sci-fi to say I want to change my usage plan to download a diagnostic video, and I want it in the next few seconds. With 5G, field techs will be able to do it,” says Price. “The only way to have it today is to overbuild. 5G enables right-sizing based on demand.”

This new capability, which is comparable to developers working in the cloud who spin up additional resources and tear them down when they’re no longer needed, could lead to the adoption of new devices.

Field technicians may begin to rely more on augmented or mixed reality to access information rather than using a smartphone.” A tech can wear glasses that provide an overlay of a furnace, showing how to fix a problem and assisting with the work in a real way,” says Price. “You’ll see fewer people walking around looking at screens and more wearing glasses or headsets.”

5G will also give field service organizations greater ability to track vehicles, plan and redirect routes, and manage logistics. “Today systems are static. 5G will enable dynamic input and automation,” explains Price.

Developers: Get Ready for 5G

5G will also accomplish something that the industry has been attempting to do for years: move telecom from proprietary standards. 5G, via Network Exposure Function (NEF), will allow developers to program systems.

With standalone 5G networks slated for deployment in the next few years, Price says it’s time to think about ways you can create more dynamic, automated environments and better user and customer experiences.

“Beyond monitoring, instruction, management and control, enterprises can deliver data to NEF and then to analytics programs and machine learning. You can orchestrate how networks react and reallocate resources, and think about how to provide the things that B2B or B2B2C customers want,” Price says. “Much more is possible.”

Standards are now being finalized and will be published in 2020. Price encourages developers to be involved with telecommunications providers’ developer communities and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and attend developer events with 5G topics on the agenda.