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5G-enabled industries have the potential to deliver $8trn in value to the global economy by 2030 according to new research from Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs.

The ‘5G Business Readiness’ report surveyed 5G maturity of companies in various sectors such as mining and energy, public safety, transportation and health, around the world. The report found Saudi Arabia to be leading the race in 5G maturity with 13% Saudi companies rated as 5G mature, meaning they have deployed and are planning to expand their 5G networks. Overall, 47% of technology decision makers have a long term 5G strategy.

The report further lists significant variations by sector in terms of 5G maturity. Globally, those with the highest maturity are healthcare (10%), manufacturing (9%), and energy and utilities (7%), while 94% in transportation and 93% in mining sectors are currently investing or have plans to invest in 5G. For Saudi Arabia, these industries could drive the next level of 5G adoption towards contributing to the realization of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Also, it was observed that companies have accelerated digital investment as their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than stepping back from technology investment in the wake of the pandemic, most companies have strengthened it. 56% of decision makers surveyed in Saudi Arabia as part of Nokia’s research said they had accelerated their digital transformation programs as a result of COVID-19.

This landmark report from Nokia underlines the potential for 5G to drive sustainable economic growth and define the next decade of innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic is forecast to further increase the value creation potential of 5G in the medium and long-term by accelerating digitization, particularly among the least digitally advanced industries. 

The report also highlights a clear correlation between 5G deployment and business performance. Companies at an advanced level of 5G adoption were the only group to experience a net increase in productivity (+10%) following COVID-19, and the only group able to maintain or increase customer engagement during the pandemic.  

Bernard Najm, Head of the Saudi Arabia Market Unit at Nokia, said: “The new study underlines that 5G adoption has clearly fueled business success in Saudi Arabia. Companies that have embraced 5G stand to benefit from advantages that go way beyond faster, more efficient and reliable network services. Moreover, the biggest challenges we face as a society – from climate change to the pandemic – can be better tackled through use of the data and

Barriers to adoption

The gap between enterprise awareness of 5G’s benefits and current levels of adoption suggests there are notable barriers to implementation. The research identified five principal barriers to 5G adoption for:

  • Ecosystem availability: Limited availability of key infrastructure outside urban centers was cited by 28% of decision-makers.
  • Education and understanding: 17% said a key barrier is that decision-makers within their business do not understand 5G, while 14% said they don’t know enough about it themselves.
  • Awareness: Over a fifth of technology buyers (22%) said that 5G implementation is not a current priority for their business.
  • Cost and complexity: 15% said they were not confident their company would be able to implement the necessary technologies.
  • Security: Over a third (34%) said that they are concerned about the security of 5G.

A call to action

The report identifies three key catalysts for change in order to bring about improved understanding, confidence and ultimately adoption of 5G. These are: improved regulation, collaboration and willingness to innovate.

  • A third of technology buyers said that government investment in infrastructure or subsidies to drive down costs would encourage them to invest more in 5G. Enterprises will not adopt 5G unless the supply from network operators is presented and priced appropriately, which in turn relies on governments and regulators making 5G spectrum in low, mid and high bands available and affordable.

  • The lack of understanding that exists within some businesses around 5G must be directly addressed. Companies and consumers alike need more information about the technology and how it can both improve operations and solve real world problems, ranging from enterprise use cases to telehealth to green technology.

  • As companies better understand 5G, they must boldly move to overhaul their operations to accommodate it, for example, exploring how they could use 5G to streamline and more effectively monitor their mobile workforce, fleet or supply chain.
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