All you need to know about 5G

5G is coming, and it has the potential to transform our experience with technology and with the brands that master it. But what is it? And when will we see it impact our day-to-day lives? Beyond making our Netflix streams load a little faster, will 5G realise its ambition to connect every appliance to the internet and dramatically improve customer experiences of every brand?

What is 5G?

Put simply, 5G is the next evolution of mobile networking technology which to most means a faster, more reliable internet connection than the last iteration. New mobile standards are agreed globally amongst electronic manufactures, infrastructure providers, governments and phone networks/carriers. 5G has greater bandwidth so is less likely to cause drop outs when lots of devices are on the network at the same time, fuelling the growth of the internet of things.

But before we all get too excited about your Facebook feed loading faster than you can say ‘smartphone addiction’, it’s important to look at the current state of 5G. Qualcomm introduced a working prototype of the technology to the world with great fanfare in late 2018, with the excitement continuing into CES 2019. We should expect the first 5G devices to be available in mid-2019 and the network to be widely available in the UK and US in 2020, but there are no firm dates yet.

Looking to the innovation facilitation by 5G, we’ll most likely see the technology come to our smartphones first, with ultra-fast, ultra-lightweight laptops with ultra-long battery lives following closely. The internet of things is expected to benefit the most from the innovation in 5G with tiny networking equipment able to connect most appliances reliably to the internet without the inherent shortfalls of WIFI.

What are the implications of 5G for brands?

As with any new ground-breaking disruptive technology, there will be implications for brands that we cannot fully anticipate. Ultra-fast connectivity’s greatest benefit is the ability to fuel more powerful customer experiences. An example could be leveraging 5G to implement smart shelves for auto-fulfilment in stores, or building powerful digital experiences through magic mirrors and beyond. Just as 4G saw mass availability of streaming video, 5G might facilitate growth of immersive 360-degree, VR content or AI powered chatbots. 

5G will continue to build brand’s customer data sets, building an even more accurate view of their customers. This has capability implications for developing platforms for meaningful data collection, and ensuring sales and marketing teams know how not to become distracted by less useful ‘bad data’, instead marrying analytics skills with essential human insights.

How should marketers use 5G?

As with any new technology, marketers should approach 5G with caution. As demonstrated in our innovation blog over investment in any new initiative before consumers are ready, or the technology is robust enough to supply a consistent experience, presents a risk. But being late to the party leaves brands equally exposed. Lacking innovation capabilities to capture and capitalise on growth opportunities can mean wasted budget or critically, not meeting customer expectations. So brands are starting to plan now, but are likely to hold off activating full 5G plans for a couple of years until the availability has tipped into a high enough number of devices.

As plans are put together, companies should question whether they have the right organisational and individual digital capabilities which lay the groundwork for successful implementation of such digital experiences. This goes beyond skills, into operating models, strategies, technologies and people – for a start, even today, do you have the right cross-functional teams building seamless omni-channel experiences and able to embrace new technologies to delight customers?

Brand Learning has a passion for building the capabilities of marketing and sales teams to drive growth. To find out how we can support your organisation please get in touch, and if you have a particular interest in how to ensure you’re ready for new technologies like 5G, our digital practice would love to hear from you.

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