By now we’ve all heard that 5G is coming, and if you’re a mobile consumer you might be thinking, “so what?” Why should you care about the next generation of wireless network technology? Isn’t it just another iteration, bringing incremental changes that are no big deal?
No. No, it isn’t.
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5G technology is actually a great leap forward. For one thing, it’s fast — really fast. As in at least 10 times faster than 4G, and up to a 100 times faster at its full potential. So you can stream video live with almost zero lag time, and download a full-length movie in mere seconds. You won’t have to trade off quality for speed either, as high-resolution visuals will be dramatically improved.
It will be a new world for mobile carriers, too. Their content subscription services will look more appealing to consumers, and there will be tons of new opportunities for video. Meanwhile, content providers can take advantage of the greater speed and better service to offer better-quality videos and in-video ads.
That’s why 5G isn’t just hype. It’s bound to boost live streaming of major events and sports, and bound to renew the popularity of downloading content, too. All in all, we’re looking at a major shift in the way we consume online entertainment and information, with video leading the way.
Operators are betting on 5G
Major operators around the world (like AT&T, Sprint, Vodafone, O2, Verizon) plan to roll out 5G in test cities across the U.S., Europe, and Asia this year, from San Francisco and Dallas to New York and Mumbai. Beyond the smartphone, IoT is becoming bigger than ever, which means cars and home appliances of all kinds are now demanding and consuming data. Today’s infrastructures are simply not built to support this new kind of growth, and with the quality that consumers expect.
On a basic level, it’s a race to truly mobilize the globe. Many countries have never enjoyed the speedy service that others take for granted. The push for 5G will finally give underserved regions greater access to information, entertainment, and the internet of things.
For operators, the payoff for investing in infrastructure is content — new options for premium content, like streaming subscriptions and streaming live events, all designed to pull in new users.
T-Mobile CMO Andrew Sherrard predicts this about 5G
It will explode with IoT and all kinds of other things and innovation we haven’t even imagined yet. When you get people out there working on new tech, and creating new content and integrating it into our lives in new ways, I feel we’re all going to be surprised by it.
Content creators and content consumers
Content creators have already signed up for the video revolution. Now they’re counting on 5G to help them deliver higher-quality content faster, with new video formats, improved service, and without interruptions — and to help them go global much easier.
For end users, the revolution is almost all about live streaming. Greater speed, higher quality, new high-resolution formats, plus global coverage, with no interruptions when they’re on the move — all could motivate consumers to spend more time on mobile, accessing news, sports, music, videos, games, and social media.
And by the way, if you’re one of those early adopters already enjoying augmented reality, 5G will make the most of your new movies and games, giving you a truly immersive, real-time AR experience.
A 5G Olympic village
We saw a 5G world in action during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The Olympics essentially created a 5G village around the live games by setting up network-connected cameras around the ice arena and along cross-country trails to film the athletes in real time, from multiple angles. Visitors were given 5G-enabled tablets so they could stream video from virtually limitless angles.
As huge crowds of people gathered in Seoul to watch the games, people who weren’t able to be there could still watch the games live on their mobile devices, listen to the commentary, and share and discuss it via social networks. This high-profile trial run was a great way to demonstrate how 5G can shift the way we enjoy major sporting events, making them affordable and accessible to all.
TV meant for mobile
Entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg is also trying out a new venture helped along by 5G. WndrCo (pronounced Wonder Company) will produce “new TV” content meant especially for mobile. The programs will be aimed at 18 to 34 year-olds, and each episode will be just six to ten minutes long.
“New TV” needs 5G to work. Current infrastructures can’t support the speed that the next-generation technology can, and at the right scale. Besides, before a change like this can happen, it needs to scale up to reach a mass population. The promise of 5G is speed with no interruptions, and if this materializes, developers will be able to offer service reliable enough to support mobile TV programming.
(A quick sidebar — under certain conditions, it would be possible to view mobile TV via wi-fi. This would depend on offering wi-fi with a service level comparable to 5G, and since most wi-fi is being switched over to fiber optics today, it would be feasible.)
Advertising meant for mobile, too
Now that 5G networks are really coming, it looks like advertisers will finally face up to the need for new mobile-dedicated formats. These would most likely be video-based, context-related, and personalized.
Video ads, in particular, are very popular with advertisers today, thanks to high conversion rates. Yet many publishers still avoid placing them on mobile, mainly because service usually is below par, with interruptions that hinder the user experience. 5G will allow mobile ads to run smoothly, and might even push developers to come up with more “native” ways to incorporate these ads.
Mobile operators own vast amounts of user data. By working directly with the operators, advertisers have a unique opportunity to cater to users’ preferences. Just as 5G offers users a faster, better mobile environment, it can also offer a unique, timely, and individualized ad-serving experience.
Put all this together, and the reasons to care about the coming of 5G should start to look pretty clear.