By Bill Menezes

Canada recently announced its plans to make more 5G spectrum available in 2020, so now is the time for organizations to start preparing for this ultra-fast service.  However, other than general descriptions of 5G networking’s performance capabilities, service providers have left businesses with numerous unanswered questions on the sourcing and procurement of 5G services. 

There is a lack and opacity of details around 5G plan structures, prices for mobile services, and overall terms and conditions. This means enterprises acquiring proprietary 5G or early-stage 5G services are more likely to pay premium prices for limited usability or to delay their initial 5G planning.

To avoid such risks, buyers should ask service providers or resellers these four questions when evaluating 5G services. 

For what will we need 5G?

Gartner client surveys show that businesses are interested in investing in 5G services and technology as long as those services and tech come with enhanced mobile broadband, are ultra-reliable and operate at low latency. 

If you are hesitant to move to 5G, identify the viability of 5G-reliant use-case plans by asking carriers to provide detailed specifications on 5G performance, throughput and endpoint capabilities, as well as the timelines to deliver each. 

Where and when can we get 5G?

With the lack of details shared by service providers on what 5G services will involve — beyond what is initially available — enterprise sourcing, procurement and vendor management leaders should require their carriers to provide detailed terms and data regarding current and planned coverage. They also should require precise timelines for endpoint types and availability and specifics about corporate plan structures. 

It is critical that your mobile service procurement teams develop realistic estimates or budgets for the expected cost of a 5G-reliant implementation to ensure that devices and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity modules are compatible with their carrier’s 5G networks. 

What will 5G cost?

It’s important that organizations avoid paying a premium for 5G service compared with 4G LTE. To achieve this, business buyers need to negotiate for 5G services to be included in standard 4G LTE corporate handheld device plans for no additional fee. 

Ask carriers to provide current and planned rate plans, plus their approach for applying available corporate discounts to 5G purchasing. Then, compare available 4G performance with available 5G performance at needed locations. 

How will 5G perform?

Service providers are claiming 5G as a critical network enabler of applications, such as autonomous vehicles and remote robotic surgery. However, mobile service providers have rarely guaranteed network availability or performance with service-level agreements (SLAs). Separate hype from reality by requiring SLAs with committed service credits for 5G connections that do not meet KPIs for network performance and reliability.

Bill Menezes is a senior principal analyst with Gartner, Inc. His research areas focus on mobile cellular services; wired and wireless LAN for the enterprise; managed mobility solutions; and general satellite communications trends.

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