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Redefining the channel through 5G adoption

With the rollout of 5G infrastructure already underway, there is an urgent need for channel partners to engage

Silver "5G" in 3D

Over the next five years, the rapid rollout of 5G will disrupt the traditional channel dynamic, with Forrester predicting that B2B e-commerce will continue to grow at an exponential rate, almost doubling to $1.8 trillion by 2023. 

The unprecedented levels of connectivity inherent in 5G will enable this growth, and it’s expected that 5G will allow mobile network operators to substantially expand their offering to include new and evolving Internet of Things (IoT) applications. This will mean unmatched connectivity and communications capabilities across platforms and devices. And these developments will again question the established channel distribution model as new cloud and telco offerings facilitate faster e-commerce streams to connect vendors to customers. 

Disruption and opportunity 

The disruption narrative around 5G proposes an array of opportunities for the channel, and a fundamental focus on opportunity is essential if channel partners are to redefine existing business models and develop new ones in the context of 5G. 

With executives across the global underestimating the disruptive potential of 5G, this short-sightedness presents a major opportunity for channel partners to cast themselves in the role of educators and facilitators. Furthermore, the channel can then harness the capabilities of 5G to expand on its traditional offering and facilitate new solutions and opportunities for customers and partners. 

With its unparalleled network integration capabilities, speed and capacity, 5G represents an unprecedented proposition to cultivate real business through new practices, which can, in turn, safeguard existing revenue streams and grow new ones. This extends to areas including a wide range of IoT applications and essential infrastructure such as automation development and integration, security standardisation and logistics management. With the rollout of 5G infrastructure already underway, however, there is an urgent need for channel partners to engage. This begins with an understanding of the 5G prospect itself, followed by the expertise needed for partners to prepare both themselves and their customers to access the benefits 5G offers, both in terms of new business strategies and emerging commercial opportunities. 

The supercharged connectivity that 5G represents will amount to the realisation of the much-predicted IoT proposition, for instance. This means the sharing of digital resources and intelligence across smart technologies will change how we live, work and consume. This level of integration will generate and use new forms of smart data, which will be distributed and analysed in previously unseen quantities.  

The smart data channel 

The ongoing disruption in the value chain will only increase with the integration of 5G communications. The channel will evolve as technology offers capabilities to those outside of the traditional partner channel, with the exponential generation of smart data amounting to a business-driving resource for vendors and service providers operating with the traditional channel. Rather than representing a problem, however, this scenario is, in fact, a valuable prospect for the channel. For channel partners, the array of emerging use cases enabled by 5G will bring infinite opportunities, ranging from direct business generation to new forms of support for customers. 

Reflecting on this lucrative proposition, our research found there will be a fast emergence of new business models relating to services and product provision. In this context, service providers both inside and outside the traditional channel ecosystem will develop and support the emergence of ever more interactive and immersive customer experiences. Such products will, in turn, have infinite data-generating potential. With regards to entertainment, meanwhile, 5G is forecast to generate revenues of approximately $140 billion between 2021 and 2028 from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Moreover, the data-generating potential from new use cases across this landscape is essentially infinite. AR, for instance, will facilitate previously unimagined communications channels between content creators and their audiences. 

In terms of the channel, this amounts to a multifaceted end-to-end smart data-generating e-commerce opportunity. These are examples of the services the channel can facilitate for customers in order to access and benefit from the actionable smart data that 5G will generate across a range of IoT applications and industry verticals. The channel of the future will prioritise smart data analysis as a driver through bespoke 5G-enabled IoT applications. For instance, the geothermal data that will become essential to the development of the smart urban infrastructures and transport systems in the coming years.  

Embracing Channel 4.0

In an era of all-encompassing transformation, data will amount to the essential lifeblood of the channel. And over the next few years, 5G will come to function as a virtual data network. It will, therefore, come to represent an intrinsic component of the channel itself - the essence of Industry 4.0 - with 5G facilitating integration across the supply and value chains with the intelligence gleaned from smart data offering stability and direction across the ecosystem.

As is the case with IoT, early engagement with 5G will facilitate faster opportunities for strategic development in terms of key applications development including AI and edge computing. It’s clear that 5G will give channel partners the inherent flexibility to move out and function at the edge, and in this emerging context, 5G will prove a truly transformative force for the channel through the development of diverse and evolving IoT and analytics-focused services and solutions offerings. 

David Fraser is technical sales manager at Intel

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