With digital transformation accelerating the pace of change in many industries, fuelled by a need to automate, as key skills become scarce across our industry, how do traditional channel partners adapt their go to market strategy?
This week our industry press has been covering how the lack of resources, combined with supply chain issues, is slowing the roll out of 5G networks. With the US reporting over 10 million job vacancies, finding people with 5G networking skills to accelerate the deployment, whilst there is a reported lack of components for 5G base station upgrades, will undoubtedly impact timescales.
This will delay the introduction of some services and increase the price for both commercial and domestic consumers. For most of us 4G will continue to take the strain for the next 12 months.
But there is a flip side to the 5G story. That of the phasing out of 3G. The major network operators want more Spectrum for 5G and in many cases that means shutting down 3G. This might not seem of great importance, we have 4G on our phones. Well most of us do.
However, 2019 estimates suggest 30 million people in the US still relied on 3G network coverage for their phones. That’s a lot of new phones required by February 2022, the first shut down date for 3G services. Others will follow during 2022. In the UK, EE have confirmed they will switch off their 3G Network by the start of 2023.
Many parts of the world still rely on 3G coverage for their mobile phone networks. According to Statista, there were over 4Bn 3G subscriptions in 2020, representing approximately half of all global phone subscribers. Mobile subscriptions worldwide 1993-2019 | Statista.
But it is not just the phone user that the lack of 3G will impact. Many organisations have 3G devices within their businesses. Fleet management systems, building security operations and health services have been developed using 3G as the network of choice. How many users are aware of the need to upgrade over the coming months? How many existing health service applications are built on roll outs of 3G devices? Their early iPads and other tablets not yet upgraded to 4G.
And typically designing, procuring, roll out and support doesn’t take a few months to execute. And if it isn’t in next financial year’s budget, then where’s the funding coming from?
The 3G network is also relied upon in emergency response systems. Some in car SOS systems and call button services for the elderly, have been built using the 3G network. The Toyota Website for North America states “Toyota Safety Connect® will no longer function as of November 1, 2022. Affected Safety Connect® services include Automatic Collision Notification, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Emergency Assistance Button and Stolen Vehicle Locator”. Not all manufacturers appear to be informing their customers though. And there is little advice on upgrades to enable these services. Presumably hoping you’ll buy a new car... if you can find one of course.
We need to begin to identify those areas where 3G is part of today’s solution. What we don’t know is the knock-on effect of those we won’t find. Who knew that when gas was too expensive to keep fertilizer plants open, the result would be a lack of CO2, leading to a shortage of some foods on supermarket shelves? If the service provider hasn’t planned or can’t afford to upgrade, and the elderly can’t afford to pay, what happens to that service? And more importantly to the people who rely on it.
We have examined the complexity of supply chains in previous articles. Soon we will begin to see the impact of the introduction of 5G. Great new services, creating new innovations and speeding up the arrival of automated cars, trucks and drones. Improving virtual reality experiences and enabling the metaverse. New, and ever more complex, supply chains will be built both to deliver and use 5G technology. But due to the need for greater density between antennae it will be a long time before we see the wide coverage we have with 3G and 4G.
There are still many supply chains and related services built on 3G. We need to find them, assess the risk and understand the impact of these losing access to a 3G network. And then plan for the alternative. Some are already assessing; others saw it early and moved. However, many are unaware of either the timing or the potential impact to their businesses.
At Tech Data we have the people with the skills to help understand the challenges and opportunities being faced through the introduction of 5G. We have access to the technology, vendors, partners and solutions that can help you build out a new, viable alternative. So, if you are a partner with a solution or service that needs upgrading, or one who has skills and solutions to help, please get in touch. This challenge will be a lot easier when addressed by the ecosystem as opposed to individually.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The Tech Data Ecosystem Team
The last four weeks have reflected a level or normality returning to our working lives. Schools are back, the traffic is back, and the headlines are no longer all about Covid – food shortages and the lack of PlayStations for Christmas as I write. We can now travel abroad (I’m in my Spanish office today), attend events and meet people face-to-face.
Gradually we are all being nudged back to the office. And on making my first post-pandemic visit to the Tech Data London office last week, I was presented with a “welcome back” box which was a really nice idea. (Thank you Directors). And there are plenty left for those still to take the plunge. Nudge.