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In a No Jitter post this week, Michael Finneran, our resident mobility expert, dissects the hype and potential meaning of 5G for enterprise communication. He concludes that whatever exertions we see from the cellular carriers or the communications software vendors, in the end the shape of enterprise mobility in the 5G era will be influenced most heavily by what consumers do with the technology. That may mean, as Michael suggests, that IT/communications decision-makers may not be directly involved in procuring the elements of enterprise mobility--we'll still be a BYOD-driven world. But regardless, IT will have to deal with the impact of 5G-era BYOD.

The biggest impact of 5G will almost certainly be something we aren't even imagining today, just as few if any people predicted the rise of streaming services at the dawn of the 4G era. But if, as Michael suggests elsewhere in his post, 5G's one sure benefit is its high bandwidth, then it seems likely that video will be a major beneficiary of the upgraded technology. And that could lead to some interesting impacts.

What if, instead of being carried over the Internet, video communications among people in disparate locations were carried, end to end, on a public telecommunications network, namely a cellular network? Would those calls be better or worse than today's multiparty videoconferences where at least one party is calling in from a home office or coffee shop or wherever, via an Internet connection?

You could argue that the quality wouldn't necessarily be better. The quality of cellphone voice calls today often leave a lot to be desired, even though 4G networks provide abundant bandwidth for voice.

There is reason to believe, however, that 5G infrastructure may be significantly different from 4G, primarily with much wider use of small cells. A denser cellular infrastructure might be able to provide better quality. Then again, since we don't know what end users will do with 5G, we don't know what incentives or disincentives the carriers will face when it comes to infrastructure deployment.

In his post, Michael notes that enterprises have seen many generations of disappointment when it comes to the business service offerings of the public cellular carriers. As much as business services might seem like an untapped market, the carriers seem in each generation to keep most of their attention on the consumer.

Whether that history will repeat in 5G remains to be seen. One thing I do know is that Enterprise Connect 2020 is planning to give you the best perspective you'll get anywhere on what the carriers are planning for the enterprise, what the technology potentially could mean for you, and how you should be positioning for the 5G future. Michael will lead a session providing a status report on 5G, and another outlining a three-year strategic view of the likely trends in mobility; he'll also team up with IP networking guru Terry Slattery of Netcraftsmen to compare 5G and WiFi as enterprise wireless access technologies. In addition, Terry will lead a session on the topic of how to deliver QoS over diverse network links.

The Enterprise Connect team doesn't claim to know what's going to happen next; but we do believe we've got a program that will cover the range of possibilities and choices you face as your enterprise communications environment enters a new generation. I hope we'll see you in Orlando.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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