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It’s been holding your business back for years – and 5G’s about to fix it


Latency. If you’ve ever live-streamed a football match and heard the neighbours cheer before you saw the goal, you’ll know about latency. If you’ve ever watched an interview via live satellite broadcast where the gap between each question and answer seems to last forever, you’ll know about latency.

The chances are you’ve also been feeling the pain of latency at work too, though you might not call it that. If so, you’re going to love 5G, not only for its speed, but for what I think is its real superpower: its ability to reduce latency.

A lot of the current 5G media buzz seems to confuse latency with speed – and understate its importance. So in this blog I want to share some thoughts on what latency is, how it impacts the performance of your business and how 5G can eliminate it.

But first of all, what’s the difference between latency and speed?

If speed is how fast a car can go, latency is how well it reacts when you put your foot down. Or think of speed as Usain Bolt’s race time, and latency is his gun reaction time.

Definition of latency

The delay between initiating an action and something happening as a result

Business without latency

5G will bring with it a new technology called ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) and it’ll make life much smoother at home, at work and everywhere in between. These five business benefits reveal what a business without latency looks like:

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1. Better interactions with customers

You know that awkward lag on live broadcasts and video conferences, where people speak over each other, communication is stilted and the whole thing is dissatisfying and distracting? While your clients and prospects probably understand why it happens, it’s not making you look particularly slick and it still feels like a distant second to real face-to-face.

The low latency inherent in 5G will transform our virtual interactions with customers, turning them into real-time exchanges, feeling much more natural, whether we’re in the office or on our mobile.

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2. Higher satisfaction among remote workers

According to the Office for National Statistics 50 per cent of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. The quality of sharing and interacting with colleagues in a virtual capacity increasingly becomes more important. With a significant drop in latency, 5G will transform the delivery of real-time HD video connectivity. Team meetings will feel more human, training will feel more immersive.

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3. The net for recruiting top talent will be thrown wider

Because remote working will work better, recruitment won’t be about co-location any more, it’ll be about being a well-connected, network of resources. Hirers will be able to adopt a whole new perspective on the size and reach of the talent pool available to them. This gives businesses a huge opportunity to secure the best talent regardless of location.

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4. Video as the default delivery vehicle for content

Online video is already an important marketing tool but with 5G making latency and buffering a thing of the past, it’s going to be much easier for businesses to use video to deliver a wide range of rich, tailored content. We’ll also be able to make better use of video – with hi-resolution, VR and AR set to make content more engaging, innovative and accessible across all devices and platforms.

  • Mobile video consumption rises by 100% every year (Insivia)
  • By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic – 15 times higher than it was in 2017 (Cisco)
  • 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day (HubSpot)
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5. Virtual Reality made real

Today’s VR headsets require a cord and a powerful processor to be any good at all. 5G releases both of these requirements allowing content to be streamed back and forth between the cloud (where the processing is done) and the headset or wearable directly, without any latency problems.

In the world of VR, you need latency of less than 7ms; headset users experience nausea when latency is over 18-20 ms. With 5G’s sub-5 or sub-2 ms latency, you can get live 3D video to your fully wireless headset and experience events in real-time - kissing goodbye to motion sickness. This makes VR applications much more viable. Expect to see a surge in virtual demos, showrooms and immersive learning experiences.


The AR and VR market will reach $292 billion (£221 billion) by 2025.

Source: ABI Research

So 5G is here, but full deployment will be a phased process; it will exist alongside 4G, low power wide area network (LPWAN) and other technologies for a while. Any new IT project should be forward-compatible so you can move to 5G as soon as it’s available.

If you’re keen to find out more about what I’ve discussed in this article, our 5G hub is full of information about 5G and IoT trends and information about how businesses can make the most of them. Check it out and see where your 5G journey takes you.

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