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Powering Northern Ireland’s future economy with 5G

  • Written by Des O’Sullivan, Vice-President, Customer Solutions Centres, Dell Technologies.

    For some time now, we have been hearing about the promise of 5G. The fifth generation of telecommunication data, 5G stands as one of the most critical building blocks to advance Northern Ireland’s digital economy, boost its recovery and radically transform the way we live.  

    Over recent years, we have begun to see the positive impact of 5G in our daily lives. As the very first mobile infrastructure built in the cloud era, the roll-out of 5G is enhancing connectivity for people and communities across Northern Ireland.

    Despite the promise which 5G brings to consumers, many businesses in Northern Ireland have yet to understand and embrace the benefits that 5G technology will bring, with only 28% of businesses across the UK knowing what 5G is and what it could do for them on a practical level.

    However, with 40% of global networks to be covered by 5G in 2024, and Barclays estimating that a full take-up of 5G estimated to lead to an extra £300m a year for Northern Ireland’s economy, it’s vital that businesses, in areas ranging from manufacturing to logistics, are aware of the benefits that 5G can bring so they can begin to unlock the value of the fifth generation of mobile internet connectivity for their organisation. At Dell Technologies, we believe that 5G will be a game changer in powering Northern Ireland’s future economy.  

    Unlocking new opportunities for business and citizens

    As the digital fabric of our data-driven era, 5G will deliver ultra-fast connection speeds and gigantic bandwidth to drive companies’ efficiency and innovation potential.

    Companies across Northern Ireland will be able to make greater use of futuristic technologies that are already starting to have an impact on our every day lives. These include heavy data users such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and Extended Reality (XR), all of which will benefit different sectors of our economy in varying ways.

    In healthcare, which has already seen the benefits of remote capabilities during the pandemic, we can expect to see greater use of high-precision tools like remote surgery, while in transport, there will be a surge in new smart mobility services, from autonomous vehicles to connected scooters, all of which rely on 5G’s ultra-low latency standards.

    Private 5G rollout will also become a viable option for many large businesses in the areas of manufacturing and logistics. This heralds a new era of private connection for businesses, enabling greater data-driven insights and real-time business decisions. 

    For Northern Irish consumers, the full rollout of 5G means they will also be able to fully enjoy a huge variety of smartdevices in the home, like roofs that detect storm damage, and rubbish bins that ask to be emptied. Out in public, we can begin to expect better signals on open parking spaces or active air-quality warnings. For farming and food production, precision agriculture can help create efficiencies like never before through providing real-time, high speed communications among sensors and devices, enhancing business and consumer experience and choice.

    By embracing 5G across our business and personal lives, we can boost innovation, make our lives more seamless and unlock insights from data as and where we need it.

    Boosting a sustainable transition

    As Northern Ireland looks to achieve its goal of net-zero carbon by 2050, perhaps even more important is the role of 5G in putting digital transformation on a sustainable pathway. According to recent calculations, 5G has the potential to reduce global emissions up to 15% by 2030.

    Right now, Northern Ireland’s current electronic communications infrastructure is largely based upon 4G mobile networks and fixed broadband. However, throughput limitations force 4G network devices to work at full capacity, resulting in constant energy inefficiency. With 5G, its increased capacity enables a 90% reduction in network energy usage.

    And that’s not all. From energy distribution to challenges in food provision, IoT applications powered by 5G offer many other innovative solutions to help accelerate our drive to a net-zero future.

    By deploying a number of interconnected sensors that collect and analyse precise data remotely from crops, machinery, and livestock, Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector could benefit from optimised yields at a much lower environmental and financial cost.

    Overcoming challenges to prosper

    Although Northern Ireland has made progress on coverage in recent years, especially in urban areas, building sustainable 5G networks is no small feat, even compared to past telecom generations. It’s a massive undertaking that requires considerable public and private support for new infrastructure, devices, and services.

    There is also the important issue of security. Due to its less centralised architecture, smart computing power at the Edge, the need for more antennas and increased dependency on software, 5G networks offer more potential entry points for attackers.

    As a major enabler for future digital services, 5G will play a key role in the development of Northern Ireland’s digital economy and society in the years to come. Therefore, it’s crucial that we address these challenges head on. Doing so will be key to future-proofing the economy and sustaining competitiveness.

    If you are still in doubt as to whether 5G really is something Northern Ireland needs for consumers or industry, take a moment to think back to the time of dial-up performance. Now, contrast that experience with cable internet. That dramatic jump doesn’t even come close to the leap forward we can expect from the 4G to 5G transition.

    It’s not just about speed, though. Data capacity and speed together will enable a radically new spectrum of possibilities for businesses and citizens right across Northern Ireland.

    With the right tools, know-how and commitment in place, 5G can help Northern Ireland not only sustain the recovery that has taken hold but to power up the data-driven economy of the future.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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