5G: just in time for work from home

Picture of John Denslinger
John Denslinger is a former executive VP Murata, president SyChip Wireless, and president/CEO ECIA, the industry’s trade association. His career spans 40 years in electronics

John Denslinger shows how 5G is turning the ‘work from home’ phenomenon from an emergency solution to a sustainable and infinitely more productive alternative.

Covid is once again rewriting ‘business as usual’. The virus single-handedly triggered the great workforce reformation of 2020 where the central office vanished and a dispersed ‘work from home’ (WfH) alternative took its place. Temporary? Hardly! That trend is not likely to change anytime soon. If you think about it, the WfH movement largely succeeded because a reliable, fast, robust communications network was available. Business teetered but more than survived thanks to time-tested WiFi and LTE grids.

It’s easy to take for granted the ease, speed and quality of our communication systems. Connectivity rarely fails. However, as we all know, demand is surging and America is thirsting for more and more capacity especially data handling. Building-out the next generation network is not only critical to economic recovery but advancing our society in general.

In my view, 5G is rolling out just-in-time. Although the WfH labor force has ample voice capability, the growing need is instant access to data streams that bolster remote productivity. 5G offers that and more.

However, before 5G becomes the de facto ‘next generation network’, its ecosystem must evolve further. By that I mean, a 5G network requires new componentry, transitional devices, broader coverages, massive infrastructure integration, and above all, advances in technology that optimize billions of connections.

The launch of such a large-scale network is daunting and as expected there are limits to rapid deployment. Consider for a moment: (1) availability of ultra-miniaturized components; (2) long term performance of active and passive devices under extreme thermal, battery life and low latency demands; (3) 5G smartphone designs that place mmWave and LTE side-by-side in one package; (4) design compression that satisfies consumer device sentiment for current form, fit and function; (5) network build-outs that still show sizeable coverage gaps; and (6) a 5G coverage map that favors large metropolitan areas over rural. The good news from my perspective, a number of well-known companies are already developing and releasing practical solutions.

On the technology front, 5G is spec’d to deliver speeds up to 10Gbps and latencies less than 10ms. Impressive? Yes, that is impressive provided the system includes EDGE computing technology truly enabling 5G optimization. EDGE adds structural complexity, but the remote user needs the full 5G speed and latency benefits to manage anticipated data flows of the future. Here again, many companies are already developing and releasing solutions for EDGE integration.

And, thanks to billions of new connections, massive amounts of data will flow. A recent Industry Insight article identified the key connectivity drivers as IoT, artificial intelligence, smart cities, smart factories, autonomous vehicles and medical technology. The list keeps growing as we apply ‘smart’ to just about every human activity.

On the home front, 5G will offer increased flexibility and greater productivity to every connected household. With improved access to data streams 5G extends that WfH viability to many business functions: sales, marketing, product engineers, customer service, procurement and even some product design groups. Technically speaking, 5G fundamentally equalizes the benefits of working from home or office.

5G is just-in-time. Seamless communications and instantaneous access to mountains of data make the WfH phenomenon not just sustainable, but infinitely more productive and here to stay as a working alternative.