5G is Coming: Know the Risks and Opportunities
The 5G network offers many opportunities for small businesses, but be sure to consider the steps to take to manage the risks
The 5th generation of wireless broadband is set to beam directly into the palms of our hands over the next two years, and with it comes both new opportunities and risks for small businesses. Just a few decades ago it was perfectly acceptable to drive while using a mobile phone. In fact, that was how Australia's very first mobile phone call was made on the '007' network in 1981 - a game-changer for businesses around the nation. What we didn't know back then, however, was that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of crashing by 400%. So if new technologies bring both new opportunities and new risks, what should we be on the lookout for ahead of next year's 5G network rollout?
What is 5G?
The 5G network is the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications, following 4G (LTE/WiMax), 3G (UMTS), 2G (GSM) and 1G (analog). One Australian telecommunications company tips the 5G network will be 20x faster than 4G, and will also be able to handle many more connected devices. It's coming soon, too. Both Telstra and Optus are both planning to commence 5G services in 2019. In the meantime, here are some of the benefits businesses can look forward to. Crystal clear communications: The faster network will allow businesses to communicate with customers, fellow colleagues and recruitment candidates over high-resolution video with potentially an unnoticeable 1 millisecond lag, compared to 30-40 milliseconds on 4G. Bulk files on-the-go: Businesses that regularly send and receive large files will now be able to access them anywhere - not just at the office or home where there's an NBN connection. The sky's the limit: While the shift to the cloud is already underway, 5G technology will accelerate it. With data able to flow back and forth over the internet more quickly, expect even more business data to be stored on remote servers. Rise of the IoT: With 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to explode. Worldwide the number of devices connected to the internet is expected to grow from 11 billion to 20.5 billion, or even 50 billion. Either way, more of your business will be interconnected via the internet than ever before. Improved analytics: IoT devices will access and provide real-time analytics data anywhere within mobile tower range. For example, a winery might have an IoT device that measures soil moisture. This could then be relayed to an irrigation IoT device that automatically activates once certain parameters are met. NBN backup: With many pockets of the NBN still unreliable - or not even connected - many small businesses will now have a reliable back-up internet option to ensure their operations don't crash if there's an outage.
Here's a worrying stat: 70% of the most commonly used IoT devices contain vulnerabilities, according to Hewlett-Packard. As such, Ernst & Young (EY) says businesses will need to undertake a comprehensive strategic approach to cybersecurity in the years ahead. "The IoT will increasingly rely on cloud computing, and smart devices with sensors built in, along with thousands (if not millions) of applications to support them," an EY report says. "The problem is that the truly integrated environments needed to support this connected technology do not exist, and cloud computing is in need of serious improvement, especially in terms of security." On top of more access points for cyber criminals to hack, EY says other major risks include a blurring of organisational IT boundaries and responsibilities, and an increased risk that employees connect mobile apps with malware to the business network.
Keep your eyes on the road ahead
The cybersecurity risks facing small businesses are not only real - they're about to become a whole lot more complicated. To ensure your business is protected against the changing online landscape that the impending 5G mobile network and IoT boom will herald, team up with a professional insurance broker to help protect against your cyber exposures with an appropriate Cyber Insurance product. After all, you don't want to spend years building your business around technology, only for it to be crippled by the pace of technological change itself. Find a broker to suit your needs here.