This week, Accenture released the results of a survey it conducted with business leaders about the coming 5G rollout. Reading it, you'll see that tech decision-makers are optimistic about the opportunities that come with 5G, but they have some very real concerns. Accenture's survey included "more than 2,600 business and technology decision-makers across 12 industry sectors in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific."

The results aren't surprising, but they are helpful in characterizing one of the biggest challenges facing the wider adoption of 5G technology in a range of industries. To that end, 68 percent believe that 5G will help make their businesses more secure, but at the same time, 69 percent believe that the greatest concern is user privacy. 

Partially, that is likely due to the fact that three-quarters of business leaders say they believe the deployment of a greater number of 5G devices increases their risk of data breaches. That's just simple math: The more devices you connect to a network, the more potential points of vulnerability you create. 

Amol Phadke, global managing director for Accenture Network Services, breaks it down this way:

The 5G ecosystem will be larger and more complex than previous generations of networks. It will include multiple vendors, multiple service providers, and multiple means of accessing networks and devices. In this new, more complex ecosystem, the protection of users' profiles--for both human and machine users--will require a more granular access control policy.

Analysts anticipate that close to 200 million 5G smartphones will be sold in 2020, which is expected to be worth $100 billion for Apple alone, though those estimates are tempered by recent reports that the supply chain is being directly impacted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Still, those numbers don't even include the millions of smart home components, manufacturing systems, supply chain tools, and medical devices that will benefit from widespread availability of 5G networks. 

Phadke points out that the new ways that companies will use 5G to both connect and streamline their communications and processes mean that they'll also have to think differently about keeping those systems secure. "Preventing user identity theft, privacy violations, and new types of fraud scenarios will require designing a secure approach to user identity management and defining a new trust model that considers all involved parties," Phadke told me.

The bottom line--and the lesson for every company--is that 5G requires a balanced approach that considers the benefits, the costs, and the risks. Smart businesses are the ones that will create strategies that allow them to take advantage of those benefits while minimizing risks.

Published on: Feb 28, 2020
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