Australia could lose $27 billion in projected productivity benefits from 5G if the country doesn’t maintain its current global leadership in mobile technologies.

With three live networks, Australia is currently a world leader, but this is at risk because a large proportion of businesses have no strategy, and are put off by costs and lack of understanding of potential applications, a new report from Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), has found.

5G has the potential to spur innovation across a range of technologies such as AI, IoT, AR/VR, drones, edge computing and autonomous vehicles, and deliver significant economic benefits.

Although Australia is currently ranked third in 5G-connected devices per capita, it’s at risk of not keeping up and forecast to fall to ninth by 2025 unless there’s targeted support.

Using modelling from the current trajectory for adoption, 5G will increase Australia’s GDP by $67 billion by 2030; however, an additional 40 per cent uplift in economic benefit over nine years, worth $27 billion, could be realised if the nation continues with its accelerated adoption.

Businesses struggling with 5G readiness

The report, which examines the economic impact of adoption levels of 5G-enabled technologies and innovations, calculated that the full dividend if Australia maintains its accelerated adoption of 5G could rise to $94 billion in total benefits.

Yet without the policy and regulatory principles required to support accelerated adoption, businesses will struggle to take tangible actions to implement 5G.

AMTA says it highlights the importance of leading the 5G technology race.

“Australian businesses were found to be slow when it comes to readiness for adoption of 5G, despite 62 per cent of businesses leaders across four sectors agreeing 5G will accelerate the growth of their business,” the report states.

It surveyed business leaders in four key industries: agriculture, manufacturing, health care, and smart cities, all likely to be important areas of future innovation.

Responses showed almost two-thirds of businesses admitted they don’t have any strategy to realise 5G and almost a third (30 per cent) currently have no plans to implement 5G.

By contrast, business with a strategy that includes 5G were twice as likely to be adopting advanced mobile use cases as those without one.

Business leaders in the survey see numerous barriers to adopting advanced mobile use cases.

Almost a third don’t currently regard 5G as a priority, while about the same view the costs as too high and just over 20 per cent don’t regard it as relevant to their business.

Australia needs a recharged 5G policy

A range of policy responses are needed to address the low enthusiasm for accelerating the take up of 5G, according to the research.

The goal is to drive greater adoption of 5G and ensure an unimpeded rollout.

To improve adoption, new policies are needed across industry, business and government to increase awareness and skills and improve business readiness.

Through targeted policies, the telecommunications sector also needs to be supported to invest in 5G networks via spectrum and infrastructure deployment.

The report points to innovations in greenhouse automation for agriculture, remote stock monitoring for manufacturing, monitoring patient outcomes in health care and traffic monitoring in smart cities as some of the 5G use cases.

Lifting business readiness requires investment in the particular skills and training needed for 5G applications as the know-how is specific to each industry, the report noted.

Adding weight to the argument for bolstering support for 5G adoption, the research found the earlier businesses can see the potential 5G applications and start adopting new technologies, the larger the productivity benefits.

“The costs of a slower 5G adoption could also grow even larger over time. If Australia is behind in 2030, it will be harder to catch up and the foregone benefits will continue to accumulate.”