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What is 5G and does it matter to commercial real estate?

5G or 5th generation is the new generation of wireless technology that allows our mobile devices to connect to the internet. 1st generation technology was revolutionary back in the 80s, drawing us all into the cell phone era. Each generation since has outdone the previous with faster and faster transmission speeds intended to satisfy the massive demand for data on-the-go. On average, consumers are expected to use around 11gb of data per month on a smartphone in 2022, much of which is driven by video traffic and streaming services.

5G however, is not about speed alone, it brings more to the table with regards to responsiveness and multi-device connectivity and this is why it’s probably the biggest advance yet in mobile technology, allowing consumers to be seamlessly ‘always-connected’ and quietly enabling businesses to accelerate the transition to digitization.

Businesses are all too aware of the need to digitalize after the events of the past year but might not know how 5G can help them achieve that. The three main benefits open up a number of exciting opportunities for businesses that choose to look at the pandemic as a good time for transformation.

Benefits of 5G to Businesses

1. Speed of Download and Upload

The bandwidth difference between 4G and 5G is phenomenal, asserting download speeds of up to 100 times faster. For any business needing to access and share large video files, having increasing numbers of remote employees communicating via video and offering virtual products and services, 5G will make a huge difference to productivity, collaboration and customer experience.

2. Higher Capacity Networks

Initial estimations say that a 5G network could support 1 million connected smart devices per 0.6 square kilometers whereas 4G can support around 2000. The 5G network can simultaneously host thousands of machines or devices, communicating seamlessly with each other without any fixed cabling nor any human interaction for years as they operate on extremely low power consumption.

3. Increased Responsiveness

Increased responsiveness or lower latency related to 5G is how long it takes between data being sent and received. The benefit of 5G is that it reduces the delay between the send and receive of data packets from 200 milliseconds to 1 millisecond - about 250 times faster than human reaction time. This enables real-time communication between sensors and actuators and paves the way for businesses who are planning to engage in the IoT (Internet of Things). Businesses will be able to stream high resolution audio, video and imagery without the lag or glitchiness that most will have experienced through remote working.

Which industries will benefit from 5G?

There isn’t a single industry that couldn’t benefit from a faster wireless network, however where things get really interesting is using 5G to connect devices in the IoT or be part of the solution in developing mission-critical operations.

Smart Offices, Smart Cities

Offices of the future will have all kinds of devices connected through 5G, automating everything from surveillance to energy, building and parking management, meeting spaces and more. This kind of network delivers huge amounts of data that organizations can use to inform decisions around how much space is needed and what it should be used for in order to increase productivity and attract key talent. Taking the concept further, smart cities are cropping up, driving different automation initiatives for consumers and businesses across all aspects of city living, such as those happening in NYC.

Factory Automation

The impact of 5G on industry is far-reaching. Production lines can benefit from wireless technologies to automate the management of supply and demand, robots may be used for the selection of products in dark stores and asset tracking in warehouses and seaports provides complete traceability of individual items. Key for e-commerce is last-mile delivery and logistics networks that will be able to route goods based on what’s happening real-time in the world. 5G equates to progress in the efficiency of equipment usage for all.

Remote Health

The healthcare industry was probably way behind others when it came to digital technology adoption, that is before the pandemic forced the issue and it had to modernize almost overnight. 5G enables remote consulting and diagnoses by specialists and before long it could be dispatching emergency services and drones in first response situations and enabling virtual physiotherapy. Senior living spaces may be equipped with specialized sensors which connect in-home devices to hospital systems for monitoring of well-being, treatment and recovery.

Why does 5G matter to the commercial real estate market?

In short, it could be a game-changer. Tenants and occupiers now expect to have the best connectivity possible as a core-offering, both in and around their properties and building owners recognize that it’s a key component of their customers’ decision-making. A property benefiting from the latest 5G technology is a way for owners to differentiate themselves from the competition and future-proof for the host of new and reinvigorated industries emerging from the pandemic.

Not only is there opportunity for CRE owners to add value to their amenities, they may be able to generate revenue at the same time by selling Wi-Fi capacity to cellular providers. As tenants and customers walk through the doors of public properties such as offices, healthcare centers, malls and stores, they can be switched to an enhanced Wi-Fi experience utilizing 5G and new technologies without them even knowing it happened.

Then there’s a role for 5G in supplementing traditional CRE methods and providing mitigation for future business interruptions as planners, surveyors and architects can collaborate virtually to visualize projects and the surrounding environment and demographics prior to construction. Whilst full scale augmented reality is a while off widespread adoption for property showings, it’s certainly more than a passing trend.

Small sensors and cameras are already collecting geofenced ‘Big data’. This data is being used by prospective building owners to give granular detail on the people that use the area; where do they live and shop, what do they spend on and where do they move from and go to? For developers, having access to this level of specificity means less reliance on their gut instinct (and sometimes unreliable, traditional demographic data) and more factual decision making instead.

4G won’t be relegated to history overnight. As with previous generations of mobile technology, 5G will run alongside 4G for the next few years until it becomes standalone and the cost of implementing entire business-wide networks becomes less prohibitive. Businesses with an appetite for digital transformation understand the immense advantages that 5G offers, however, in a challenging economy, not all of them will be able to capitalize on these efficiencies as quickly or extensively as they would like..


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