5G has used a crisis nobody wanted – the COVID-19 pandemic – to prove its value to the enterprise, according to ABI Research.  But consumer traffic has migrated from mobile to fixed broadband, which could slow 5G deployments aimed at serving consumers.

All told, ABI expects 5G capital expenditures (CAPEX) to decline by 10% this year. It’s a delay, not a permanent decline, however. Spending will increase late this year and next year. The firm thinks that the crisis will begin abating this month and that “the world will slowly start to go back to its natural routines.”

Enterprise 5G
A winner during what is certain to be an unpredictable period will be 5G fixed wireless access, which can be deployed quickly to provision hospitals and/or complement their existing broadband connections. This sets up 5G as a key supporting technology. “[T]hese connections can provide the foundation for advanced services, such as remote diagnosis, out-patient handling, and primary care,” said ABI Research Director Dimitris Mavrakis in a press release about enterprise 5G and COVID-19. “In addition, the combination of advanced data collection and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will play an important role, especially in the more technically complex, edge device-centric use cases.”

In healthcare and other settings, the firm says, 5G can provide low-latency and high throughput to support data acquisition and model updates.

The research suggests that public safety services and healthcare are two of the most important of the many verticals that will benefit from 5G during the pandemic. Important enterprise 5G use cases cited in the press release include remote temperature checking, constant communication for first responders, patient transfer, out-patient clinics and temporary hospitals.

ABI also anticipates enterprise 5G applications will drive development of Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), a foundation of network slicing.

Enterprise 5G could help vindicate some carriers’ decisions to deploy 5G initially using millimeter wave spectrum — a choice made by both AT&T and Verizon, although AT&T has since deployed 5G in low-band spectrum. Millimeter wave spectrum supports the highest speeds but over relatively short distances — a reality that caused AT&T initially to emphasize the enterprise market and to target 5G deployments to enterprises committing to use the technology.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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