Imagine a global network so lightning fast and seamlessly interconnected that boundless innovation flourishes. Imagine what organizations could do with a wireless network as fast as any wire-line network — and maybe faster.
That is the promise of advanced wireless networks such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6. These new technologies are making wireless an alternative for must-have, high-bandwidth applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and edge computing, according to a new Deloitte report.
"As the adoption of advanced wireless technologies progresses from pilots to full-scale adoption, networking executives who understand how to use them as a way to unlock the full potential of emerging technologies will ultimately prevail," says Jack Fritz, principal, technology, media, and telecommunications, at Deloitte Consulting LLP.
Indeed, 86% of respondents to a Deloitte survey say advanced wireless will transform their organizations in the next three years, and 79% say it will transform their industry. Deloitte surveyed 415 network decision-makers at U.S.-based organizations for the Enterprises Building Their Future With 5G and Wi-Fi 6 report.
Most respondents say their organization currently is adopting these technologies, and another 37% plan to do so in the next year. That's why internal auditors need to get up to speed on the technologies.
Despite what auditors may have heard from their wireless carriers' advertising, 5G — the fifth generation of cellular technology — isn't just for mobile phones. It can support a wide range of applications at speeds that are as much as 100 times faster than 4G connections and even faster than a fiber-optic home connection.
Perhaps more importantly, 5G reduces the latency, or response time, between when a user makes a command or request and when an action occurs to as little as 1 millisecond, Cnet explains. That could enable time-sensitive applications, such as performing robotic surgery or enabling self-driving vehicles to communicate with one another. At the very least, Zoom calls might be less awkward.
While 5G brings speed to external wireless networks, Wi-Fi 6 lets organizations extend speed to internal networks. The technology, which debuted last year, is about 30% faster than the previous Wi-Fi 5 standard, according to Cnet.
But speed isn't the only advantage of Wi-Fi 6. The technology can link more devices than ever before and enable them to communicate faster, more efficiently, and at lower power simultaneously. Additionally, Wi-Fi 6 routers and access points can send more information in a single signal. With them, applications like the Internet of Things become supercharged.
The Power to Innovate
Speed and connectivity are advantages, but only if they deliver real benefits to organizations. Executives surveyed by Deloitte say they expect advanced wireless technologies to become a "force multiplier" for their organizations by enabling them to adopt other emerging technologies.
Although most of these executives have been satisfied with the wireless technologies their organizations currently use, they acknowledge that those technologies limit their ability to innovate. For example, eight in 10 respondents say advanced wireless is very important to their organization's ability to fully leverage AI, cloud and edge computing, and big data analytics. Innovation is among the top three benefits respondents expect from advanced wireless, behind greater efficiency and improved security.
The report provides examples of usage scenarios and lists considerations for organizations that are implementing 5G and Wi-Fi 6, including:
- Timing. Investing in advanced wireless technologies now could give organizations a jump on competitors, but implementation may cost more when the technologies are new.
- Strategy. Organizations need guidelines, a strategy, and a road map for wireless initiatives, including plans for handling the greater volume of data they may generate.
- Benefits. Organizations should think beyond incremental improvements to see how advanced wireless can spur innovation, competitive advantage, and better connections with customers and employees.
Unleash the Power of Data
Aside from implementation challenges, internal auditors should consider issues such as security and privacy in assessing the risks involved with 5G and Wi-Fi 6. Deloitte's respondents listed security as their No. 1 challenge to adopting these technologies. The report advises organizations to consider how they will manage, authenticate, and secure wireless networks.
Organizations also need to secure the colossal amount of data these technologies can produce. That includes privacy protections, as well. In a 2019 blog post, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers noted that the volume of data collected presents a "risk/opportunity conundrum" that requires organizations to "rethink how they gather, use, and protect data."
But 5G and Wi-Fi 6 provide opportunities for the internal audit profession, too. "Ironically, taming the 5G data tsunami will require internal audit to embrace technology unlike ever before," Chambers wrote. To cope, auditors will need to become familiar with new technologies and better connect with IT functions, he said.