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Project Limitless' 5G PC and what desktop admins need to know

Qualcomm and Lenovo have partnered to produce a 5G-enabeled PC that could be a game-changer for remote workers. IT must prepare for a 5G rollout and the issues it could bring.

Lenovo and Qualcomm have joined forces to develop a product they're calling Project Limitless, and they're touting it as the "world's first 5G PC."

The new PC is an ultraportable Lenovo desktop that incorporates Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx compute platform and X55 5G modem. Although there's still plenty of uncertainty surrounding Project Limitless, the new laptop could portend a wave of 5G-enabled PCs in the next few years.

Desktop administrators should start thinking about how this trend could affect them in the future.

Project Limitless specs

Project Limitless represents a collaboration between Lenovo and Qualcomm to develop a new class of 5G PCs. The Lenovo laptop hardware provides the mobility of a smartphone and the convenience and capabilities of a PC without requiring a Wi-Fi or a hotspot connection. The new device promises faster transfer speeds and higher-quality streaming. Lenovo plans to release the laptop in early 2020.

The laptop is built on the Snapdragon 8cx compute platform. According to Qualcomm, the platform delivers multigigabit data speeds, multiday battery life, support for enterprise applications and advanced integrated security. The company also claims that the Snapdragon 8cx is the world's first 7 nanometer platform purpose-built for a 5G PC.

The laptop includes the Snapdragon X55 5G modem, which promises peak download speeds up to 7 Gbps. The modem is reportedly compatible with nearly any frequency band that global operators use, which makes it feasible to connect the laptop from anywhere in the world.

Preparing for 5G in the enterprise

Much of the focus on Project Limitless has been on speed and connectivity, which translates to lightning-fast streaming, collaboration and file transfers. These new capabilities could especially benefit remote and field workers and enable them to bring along their ultraportable PCs anywhere they go.

Desktop administrators must be prepared for any security and compliance issues that 5G might bring.

Desktop administrators will need to determine the most effective method to manage these devices. Although the process might be similar to how desktop admins currently manage laptops for remote workers, 5G could also bring about differences in architecture, workflows or other factors that seriously affect operations.

Many 5G proponents believe that 5G will open the way for a new generation of applications, services and use cases. 5G could enable more augmented reality tools in the enterprise among other possibilities. 5G could also lead to greater AI and automation across the enterprise because of the improved speeds and connectivity.

5G PC management concerns

The 5G PC rollout could complicate desktop administration. First, there is no clear schedule for when and where service providers will implement 5G. Even if there was a timeline, most organizations will likely implement 5G support in stages. As a result, some locations will be connected to a 5G network, and others will not.

Personally owned devices will only add to the confusion. Although it's possible that existing desktop management tools will be able to carry out some of the management tasks, IT professionals will likely need to modify their operations to accommodate the new capabilities of 5G PCs.

Desktop administrators must be prepared for any security and compliance issues that 5G might bring. According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8cx platform comes with a suite of security features, but there may be hidden risks that might not emerge until organizations have fully rolled out 5G.

5G delivery models

Currently, service providers are focused on two 5G delivery models. The first model is similar to traditional cellular services in which wireless providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, offer services to 5G-enabled devices that subscribe to their plans.

The second delivery model is the fixed broadband wireless service in which providers offer network access to their customers without the need for wired connectivity, such as coaxial or fiber optic cables. In this scenario, the provider beams a signal to the customer's on-site receiver. From there, the customer amplifies the signal throughout the premises.

Once 5G technology matures, enterprise organizations are likely to embrace both 5G formats to accommodate on-premises and mobile workers who require ongoing connectivity and the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they prefer. In fact, 5G could have a sweeping effect on the enterprise, resulting in new use cases and new types of applications and services that could significantly affect desktop administration.

At the same time, 5G promises to bring more PCs onto its networks, which means more data, applications and desktops and, therefore, a larger attack surface. Today's methods for safeguarding desktops -- along with applications and data -- could prove inadequate for the challenges to come.

Undoubtedly, desktop admins will need to learn new skills to handle these changes, but it can be difficult to predict what those skills will be. IT pros must be able to adapt to new or modified tools and processes while maintaining old systems.

IT pros will also need to become more knowledgeable in 5G technologies and services, such as how distance affects 5G services or how services might differ among providers. The 5G paradigm is quite different from 4G and could change the rules in important ways.

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