Preparing for the 5G “Brave New World”

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What do you need to know to prepare for 5G, take advantage of opportunities it will bring, and what comes after 5G? Part 4 of a 4 part series entitled "Understanding and Preparing for the Coming Mobile 5G Tsunami!"

The foregoing discussion (re: Parts 1 to 3 of this blog series) has attempted to demystify the fascinatingly complex and dynamic story of the global launch of 5G and associated opportunities and challenges. A key theme in this discussion is that 5G is fundamentally different from previous generations of mobile technology. The timing of the start of deployment of 5G is also very intriguing due to 1) the growing current techno-geopolitics and associated balkanization of the internet with uncertain global economic and political consequences, 2) convergence with other disruptive technologies (e.g., AI, blockchain, quantum computing.) that is expected to unleash a bewildering spectrum of innovation over the next decade and beyond and, finally, 3) a rapidly evolving challenging COVID-19 context driving a mix of negative (e.g., supply chain challenges) and positive 5G commercialization related impacts (e.g., accelerated digital transformation).

Recent sobering comments by global innovation thought leader, Clayton Christenson, provide some insights into the coming 5G “tsunami”:

“…disruption does not mean “breakthrough” or “new and shiny,” far too many people assume that disruption is an event. Rather, disruption is a process. It’s intertwined with the resource allocation process in the firm, in the changing needs of customers and potential customers, and in the constant evolution of technology.”

From a 5G perspective, we really are at the beginning of this highly disruptive process with much work needed to bridge the current formidable divides across political, legal, ethical, health, environmental and socio-economic infrastructures before 5G’s full potential can be realized.

This 5G disruption process reminds me of the Roman god of beginnings and transitions – Janus – often depicted with faces looking in opposite directions - who presided over passages, gates, and doors. What then lies behind the 5G door? Certainly, it will not look like anything that we have seen so far. Indeed, what business models will be in play over the next decade?

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Mobile 5G: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges Workshop

The Rise of Brave New Business Models

Business models have undergone significant changes over the last century with the rise of electrification, availability of new battery technology, and, more recently, deployment of disruptive internet, mobile and cloud platforms. The 20th century introduced so-called “bait and hook” models (e.g., free razor + expensive blade refills) in the 1920s followed by “franchise” models in the 1950s (e.g., McDonald’s) to digital/internet “freemium” models in the late 90s/early 2000s. As we now enter what has been described as the fourth industrial revolution (aka Industry 4.0), the convergence and fusion of various disruptive technologies is “blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” opening the door to all sorts of new innovation and associated business models. Alongside the ongoing evolution of the successful digital “freemium” model, we are now witnessing the rise of creative business models focused on crowdsourcing/crowdfunding, “smartness” (AI infusion into tools and processes), and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). 5G is expected to secure a prominent role in the development of these new business models, for example, novel autonomous transport solutions as part of various DAO initiatives and real time public safety/emergence response infrastructures with deep embedded “smartness”.

“One More Thing” …What Comes After 5G?

Just as we are now becoming acquainted and somewhat “comfortable” with 5G and its potential to fundamentally change our lives in the coming years in so many ways, concerted efforts have already begun across the globe to start defining what 6G will look like in 10 years or so from now. Early investigations have focused on Sci-Fi – ish volumetric holograms, new concepts such as “wireless cognition” and “cones of silence”, and incredibly bandwidth rich terahertz communications. What will be the new killer apps? How will these be shaped by evolving techno-geopolitics? What about those “inconvenient” elephants in the room, specifically potential health and environment impacts? 6G will certainly push yet a new round of densification requirements raising all sorts of questions. Will the conventional 10X performance factor improvement still apply and across which dimensions? Interesting times ahead!

How to Prepare for this 5G Brave New World

Mark Twain once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

So how exactly does one best prepare for this 5G brave new world? How about starting with a “simple” proposition – Imagine what a typical day in your life and work will be in 5 years from now in 2025 when 5G is expected to be in full commercial scaled deployment. What about in 2030? Do you remember what life and work were like in 2010 or even 2000? It is amazing to see the often-perplexed expressions when such questions about the future are asked to students or business leaders.

Predicting even the near future is certainly not an easy task, especially given that “built-in features in our neurobiology make us blind to what’s around the bend”. Nevertheless, it is these types of fundamental questions that we need to ask to drive engagement, transparent and diverse discussions, and focus….which eventually (and hopefully!) will lead to some kind of vision with defined target outcomes. This vision then needs to be constantly checked and refined through what I call the new millennium survivalist triumvirate filter – disruption, relevance, storytelling. In this emerging 5G powered brave new world, you need to able to craft an authentic, compelling, and digitally savvy story to effectively tackle converging waves of accelerating disruptive market forces in order to stay in the game, and thus, remain relevant. This applies to individuals and businesses alike.

In the opening line of his recently published book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Harari unequivocally states: “In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.”

It is in this spirit then, of striving to stay “relevant” and “clear” as to what lies ahead, that I invite you to join me in one of my upcoming Virtual McGill University workshops on the complex and boldly transformative world of 5G to help you navigate what is fake, hype, and real!

Discover the Workshop!

Mobile 5G: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges Workshop


About John Nikolopoulos

John Nikolopoulos is a Mobile/Cloud/Telecom/IT global technology/consulting executive with 25+ years in senior leadership roles in Sales, BD/GTM, Product/P&L Management, and Solution/Systems Architecture teams driving global channels, partnerships & enterprise deployments with $billions of global sales in diverse industry verticals within F500/Large Cap enterprises (Accenture, Nortel, and Sagemcom ) as well as high profile start-ups such as Corvis Corp., where he was part of the senior GTM/execution team leading to one of the largest exits in tech industry history with a 1.1 billion$ IPO. John has a significant international technical publication (50+) and public speaking record, contributed to multiple patent filings, achieved senior member status within the IEEE, and gained extensive Wall Street/Silicon Valley Analyst/Board of Directors executive communications experience.

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