5G Is Rolling Out. So What’s Next for Businesses in Malaysia?

By Choo Tzer Maan, Director of ELMLAB,

In the wake of 5G implementation, Malaysian industries are shifting. With the government successfully reaching 33.2% of its targeted 5G network rollout in populated areas this year, a more widespread implementation of 5G-enabled business models is dawning. As a result, businesses are preparing for the myriad of changes that will inevitably follow the bump up to 5G, such as shifting customer demands and adapting to more modernised processes.

This implementation will affect a wide range of sectors, especially with the national goal to provide 5G services to as many users and businesses as possible in the shortest amount of time, allowing Malaysia to achieve the government’s ambition of the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) and catch up with its regional peers. The fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) aims to increase operational efficiency by coactive interconnectedness between people and machines, information transparency and the ability of cyber physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomously as possible.

Thus, IR4.0 depends highly on interconnectivity and smart automation. A part of this phase of industrial change is the integration of technologies like artificial intelligence. The global production and supply network is actively shifting from traditional practices to modern smart technology such as large-scale machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things (IoT).

As 5G plays a key role in accelerating the deployment of these technologies, I see great merit in ensuring we utilise and apply it effectively to our current infrastructure. This will allow us to enhance immediate tech-based solutions such as autonomous vehicles, enhanced cybersecurity, and digital-enabled increased workforce productivity, strengthening local preparedness to use 5G on a larger scale in the coming months.

The world’s mobile network operators are currently in the early stages of the rollout of their public 5G networks. In most developed countries, coverage is still patchy, with operators focusing their attention on major cities and other areas of high demand. The initial business case for public 5G investments, especially in Malaysia, concentrates on enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) use cases. Operators are still looking to shift existing and new smartphone users over to 5G networks, and to compete with fixed-line broadband providers by offering 5G connections to homes and workplaces.

Businesses, however, won’t have to wait for the configuration of public infrastructure before they can start benefiting from 5G networks. Many early adopters of the technology are expected to use private networks, installing their own 5G base stations in factories and industrial parks.

Private 5G networks offer some compelling benefits to organisations. The technology promises improved performance in environments filled with metal objects and radio-frequency interference, for example, and even offers significant new network control options.

Using the network slicing capability of 5G, owners can fine-tune the connectivity offered to different devices on the same network, so that autonomous robots could be guaranteed fast, reliable connections, without having to compete for bandwidth with less safety-critical applications. 5G architecture now also addresses gaps that have long plagued pre-existing wireless technology, such as concerns on energy consumption, coverage availability, reliability, scalability, and cost.

5G and All that Transforms With It

As business models adapt to 5G and move up their position in the value chain of business deliverables, securing business software from cyber vulnerabilities is becoming an increasingly high priority. Wireless connected supply chains will become tempting targets for cybercriminals who may try to intercept communication to gather information on goods or customers and disrupt networks to interfere with operations.

With its high-speed connectivity, 5G networks can in fact accelerate the identification of these cyber threats and run faster analyses, allowing businesses to act quickly against scams and hackers. Blockchain-enabled 5G networks will also encrypt and authenticate data in a decentralised way that will complement the modern device communication with data governance and security.

Business processes will be able to leverage this technology as the 5G ecosystem will enable the wide use of blockchain and Internet-of-Things (IoT). IoT-integrated systems automates workflows, while a system built on blockchain enables business processes to use big data with transparency, reliability and security. With measures in place to address vulnerabilities, business operating models will be more agile and adaptable towards change, from top-level strategy through mid-level management and all the way down to ground-level operations.

As technologies are more readily available and adaptable to meet the dynamic business environment, workforce automation enabled by 5G networks will allow teams to work together seamlessly which will then enable businesses to maximise their workforce’s capabilities by providing them a more cognitive demanding job scope.

Once this is actualised, gaps between businesses that adopt technologies and those that do not will become even greater, leaving them behind in the expanding IT infrastructure. Thus, businesses must invest in implementing technology that adheres to the operational framework of 5G networks to reap its future-proof benefits.

Furthermore, innovations require people to change, develop new skills, adopt new processes, and amend long-established working methods. For Malaysia’s accelerated digital advancement, we must nurture a talent pool that could configure and manage these advanced systems. The skills required should be cross-disciplinary, spanning cloud computing, programming and engineering. Furthermore, we need an ecosystem with multidisciplinary participating stakeholders to drive this towards success.

Consequently, this will also change how we contribute to the industry, accelerating technological innovations through sustainable practices that will ensure business longevity in an always-changing environment. The next step forward in making this happen would be to form strategic alliances within the tech industry to address the business transformational needs of ESG across all industry verticals.

A strong domestic supply chain will build a more circular and sustainable business ecosystem in the nation — ultimately giving Malaysia the competitive advantage in a constantly evolving business landscape.

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