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Deeper Dive 5G: Beginning With the End in Mind: How to Prepare for 5G (Episode 5)

New technologies follow a predictable pattern, and 5G is no exception. Foretelling disruption will not prevent it from happening, but it will buy some time to cut through the hype and take full advantage of emerging opportunities. 

“It’s a matter of preparing for something that does not yet exist,” says Doug Sparkes, a lecturer at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. “Typically, we are focused on what we have now.”

Sparkes joins Jim Love, CIO of ITWC, as co-host of Deeper Dive: 5G Without the Hype, a 5-part podcast series created by ITWC and sponsored by Wipro. In the fifth and final episode, 5G Gets Real, they share some examples of 5G’s potential to open new doors and drive the digital transformation of industries.

Mapping the Route to 5G

Early adopters may see 5G as a done deal, but realizing its potential depends on a clear understanding of the problems it could solve, the advantages it could present, and how it could change everything from healthcare and education to transportation and manufacturing. “We need a roadmap,” says Love, “something that shows us what we can – and should – be doing in order to get the greatest benefits from 5G.”

From Sparkes’ perspective, preparing for next generation technology begins with leaders asking themselves some tough questions about what their businesses are best known for, and what technologies underlie their competitive advantage. “The hard part,” he says, “is determining whether we have the capacity to implement and adapt to the changes these technologies will bring.”

Moving Forward with Backcasting 

Planning in an uncertain world is a subject of interest to both Love and Sparkes, and puts them in mind of ‘backcasting’, a technique that involves creating visions of the future and then working backwards to determine how to bring those visions to fruition. The opposite of forecasting, backcasting helps to recognize early warning signs, illuminates ways to move forward, and promotes digital leadership.

The place to begin in backcasting, according to Sparkes, is by asking what could be done today in order to pave the way for the desired future – a question he sees as going hand-in-hand with experimentation. “Done well, this can become the basis for a competitive advantage,” he says. “As you gain more understanding of a technology and its capabilities, you become better able to identify the opportunities it represents.” 

A Higher Calling

Continuing the discussion of preparing for future-looking technologies, Love and Sparkes examine 5G’s game-changing potential for satellite based networks such as StarLink from SpaceX. “This really highlights the nature of disruptive technologies,” explains Sparkes. “Communications satellites have been around for decades. What has shifted is the technology and economics such that these massive networks of communications satellites are now potential new entrants into the market.”

The podcast concludes with a reference to people around the world who are trying to destroy cell towers, an occurrence examined in the first segment in this five-part series. “The real problem,” says Love, “is that they don’t  understand the basics of what 5G is, how it works, and more importantly, why it is so important to them.”

If you joined this podcast for the first time with episode five, or if you missed any of the segments in this series, episodes one to four are still available, as well as more information about backcasting, and a list of resources for building your own 5G network.

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