New research from Barclays Corporate Banking shows that 5G could supercharge the Welsh economy by up to £456m per year by 2025 – but the opportunity could be missed because industry leaders still do not know enough about the benefits of investing in the technology.
The report 5G: A Transformative Technology analyses a series of potential scenarios that businesses across the UK could face when implementing 5G. Under an ‘optimistic scenario’, which anticipates an accelerated rollout of 5G and an enhanced uptake amongst UK businesses and consumers, Wales will see a £456 million increase in business revenue by 2025. A slower-than-anticipated rollout and limited use would deliver around £235m of added revenue to Wales, while with the expected pace of development added revenue would reach £369m.
Meanwhile, under the optimistic scenario, the business areas set to see the largest revenue increases across the UK are distribution (£3.6bn), manufacturing (£2bn), professional services (£1.1bn) and business services (£1bn). The diverse range of sectors set to see a boost to revenue is a testament to the wide applications of 5G technology.
The optimistic scenario could be a reality for British businesses, as mobile providers are already beginning to introduce 5G capabilities on a large scale this year, including pilots such as EE launching 5G in Cardiff this year along with 15 other cities across the UK. The Government is also supporting 5G by incorporating it into its Industrial Strategy, having pledged £1bn towards digital infrastructure. The bidding process for 5G licences, meanwhile, opened to the telecoms industry last year.
The current state of (mobile) play
The new Barclays research revealed that 39% of businesses in Wales are already benefitting from fast communications technology like 4G and ultrafast broadband. The top reasons for this in Wales are customer expectation (54%), connecting multiple devices (50%), and access to mobile networks (43%).
5G can further enhance these operations through benefits including peak data rates 20 times faster than 4G and simultaneous connections for one million devices per square kilometre. The extreme speed paves the way for innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics and large-scale Internet of Things (IoT) usage. For businesses, this means more extensive machine-to-machine communications, using self-driving vehicles and better overall infrastructure – amongst other new applications.
Despite the demand for current communications technologies and the potential applications for 5G, the Barclays survey found just 22% of business decision makers in Wales know how their business can make the most of 5G. When it comes to preparing for 5G, only 15% of Welsh businesses are actively considering how they will harness the new technology.
Karen Thomas, Head of Corporate Banking for Barclays in South Wales, comments:
“The rollout of 5G offers a huge opportunity for Wales. We are seeing massive potential for business growth, which ultimately delivers a positive knock-on effect for the whole region. While the Government and network providers are already working hard to introduce 5G, we found that businesses do not yet have enough clarity about how they will benefit in the long-run. To ensure that Wales can realise the full potential of an accelerated rollout, the Government, mobile operators and other corporate partners – including financial institutions – have a job to do in order to raise awareness amongst businesses so they can harness 5G.”