Seamless, real-time connections to anything from anywhere was the dream promised by mobile internet. It still hasn’t quite come true. Despite huge improvements in technology over the past 30 years, using mobile internet in 2018 still involves jumping through the hoops imposed by patchy, slow connections. We’re promised by mobile network operators around the world that with the advent of 5G, this could all be about to change.
Is your brand ready?
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. Unlike each of the previous generations, where new functionality was added (1G introduced voice, 2G introduced data for text and picture messages, 3G introduced data speeds fast enough for video calls), 5G, much like 4G before it, will be centred around speed and capacity. It is currently predicted to offer speeds of as much as 10GBs per second. In layman’s terms, that means that a full HD film that would take 10 minutes to download on a 4G network will take less than 10 seconds on 5G. Browsing speed will also be revolutionised; current 4G response times of 50 milliseconds will be replaced by just 1 millisecond on 5G. If this sounds fast, that’s because it is; in fact it’s better than most broadband providers. As a result, 5G could actually mean some industries are able to completely cut their dependency on cable-based internet.
What will 5G mean for the user?
5G speed promises to revolutionise the way we use the internet on the move. On-the-go streaming and downloading will become more normal, as will seamless, glitch free video calls and messaging. Home internet will be installed without engineers and with reduced waiting times. What’s more, 5G will provide the infrastructure to bring cutting-edge technology to more people at the same time. Driverless cars are one example; they will be able predict traffic, find vacant parking spots and avoid hazards on the road, all in real time. And the effects will not stop at cars; from watches and fitness trackers to washing machines and traffic cameras, 5G will have the power to support an entire internet of connected things.
What opportunities will 5G present for brands?
Brands are already wise to 5G’s potential. They know that 5G opens up interesting questions about the kinds of physical experiences they can create for their customers.
Network operators around the world are vying to lead its development: BT, Huawei, O2, Apple and Samsung are just some of the brands that have started running tests using the technology. Consumer brands are competing to be at the forefront of the market in early-adoption countries like the UK. EE are extending their London testing phase. Three UK will launch 5G home broadband in the latter half of 2019.
However, telcos aren’t the only ones getting excited; at the Mobile World Congress Ericsson demonstrated the network’s capabilities by allowing attendees to use their Oculus Rift headset to remotely control a digger, thousands of miles away in Sweden. Ericsson also has plans to demonstrate 5G at the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Once the dust has settled on PR stunts and the testing periods are over, the impact of products built around 5G remains to be seen. Will customers be willing to spend on new hardware, or transition to new providers offering 5G services? If they are, more fluidity in the market will result in brands scrambling for market share.
5G is also likely to create exciting new possibilities for marketers. As the Internet of Things grows and devices become increasingly interconnected, the amount of information brands have on their users will continue to grow. This will allow for even more personalised messaging, sent at times when it is most likely to resonate with the user.
What should brands watch out for?
5G will require big infrastructure investments from brands still recouping costs spent on 4G. Costs could be an issue for consumers too. Although it will be fast, it will also be a big drain on data, meaning that users may find themselves quickly hitting the limits of their capped data plans, or else running up unexpectedly high excess charges. The challenge for telcos is finding a way to offer 5G that is affordable to the user, while also convincing them that the improvement in service is worth the hassle of moving to a new handset. If 5G handsets are too expensive, or if the benefits of the network aren’t clear, customers may be reluctant to upgrade.
The bright side for brands is that they still have time to agree their strategies, as 5G is still very much in a developmental phase. Although the first tests have been run, the first officially accepted specification was only agreed by 3GPP – the organisation that governs cellular standards – in late 2017. The polished product is then expected to launch in early-adopter markets (such as the UK, US, and East Asia) in 2019, with other markets scheduled to follow in 2022.
In the race for 5G, not everyone is as sure that 5G will produce game-changing results. Vodafone’s CTO Johan Widbergh warned of too much hype at the Global Mobile Broadband Forum in November 2017. Brands who are vocal about leading the charge on 5G will also suffer if they cannot deliver an improved customer experience.
Ensure your brand is among the winners
5G is already opening up a world of potential opportunities for brands. Customer experiences could be revolutionised if the technology can live up to the hype. The balance will tip in the favour of brands who are able to match their promise to the experiences they deliver.
Get in touch with Saffron to discuss the opportunities 5G and other digital technologies present for your brand.
By Claire Huxley, Strategist