Get ready, your next phone will be rolling out around the world in less than 2 years.  The next generation of cell phone technology is just about the corner and it’s called 5G.  5G, or 5th Generation networks are the next generation of the mobile internet.  These networks have much faster speeds, more reliable connectivity and are built understanding the importance of the Internet of Things.

If you live in Houston, we’ve been name Verizon’s 3rd 5G installation for 2018.  The first part of Houston’s rollout will be fixed locations, mostly inside the loop with mobile rollouts following in the next year.  Like other networks, 5G uses a system of cells to send data through radio waves.  What makes 5G special is that the way it uses those radio waves.  Don’t I already have 5G?  Nope.  AT&T called their network 5G Evolution because it made improvements on the regular 4th generation network, but it wasn’t 5G.

Since we haven’t really seen any 5G networks in the wild, we have to rely on the technical specifications of what the standard calls for.  What actually gets implemented will most likely be not up to standard, at least at the beginning.

Greater Speed

5G will be significantly faster than today’s 4G phones with download speeds of 20 gigabits per second, about 20 times faster than the theoretical rate of your 4G phone.  The word “theoretical” is important here because very few of our phones actually reach that speed.  So a 2 hour 4k high definition YouTube movie would take about 12 seconds to download to your phone.  At that rate, you could simultaneously stream over 11000 HD Netflix movies to your 5G phone.  The limit to your speed will no long be the network, but will be your phone.

Lower Latency

When a 5G network is at its best, it offers a maximum of 4 milliseconds of latency with a target of 1 millisecond.  Latency is another word for delay and the lower the number the better.  On a workstation, it’s the bouncing ball or hour glass that spins while you’re waiting for something to download.  Latency on a 4G network is around 20 milliseconds, so the improvement will be pretty dramatic.

More Devices at Once

5G networks are designed to talk to lots of devices at the same time.  For many of us, the idea of using our cellular networks to watch a movie or to do cloud-based graphical design leaves a lot to be desired.  Instead, we use our home or office WiFi networks tied into broadband internet to do the real heavy lifting.  With 5G, however, the speed and latency of the network will support many more simultaneous devices.  In fact, it’s designed to interact with 1.6 million devices in a square mile, enough devices to take into account desktops, cellphones, and internet-of-things devices.

5G networks will be smarter and more energy efficient and will use wider communications bandwidth than previous networks.  The 5G network cells will cover a wide range of sizes from small cells much like the WiFi router in your home to the large cell towers running along highways.  The network of cells will most likely be very dense, too, because some of the new communications bands use frequencies that can carry lots of data, but not over long distances.

With all of this capacity, what will we use it for?  Driver-less cars and trucks are tops on the list as is remote control of just about any sort of device.  Because of the very low latency, we can imagine all sorts of devices that we’ll be able to control in real-time across a network.  Also on the list is something called Massive IoT.   The idea that you can connect virtually ANYTHING to the internet and control it, track it and secure it makes 5G an exciting technology that will really change the way we look at our world.  Here’s an interesting link to other use cases for 5G.

Your Business and 5G

The problem with new technology is usually your investment in old technology.  In fact, that’s one of the key thoughts underlying Harvard’s Professor Clayton Christensen’s theory about disruptive strategies:  companies with old technology are out-competed by companies that have adopted newer technologies that provide more of a competitive advantage.

The key to taking advantage of 5G will be in the data collected through the network that can be used in data analytics, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence/machine learning.  While many of us have begun using Internet of Things for home security or controlling our indoor lighting, the myriad of things that we will have the ability to interact with over the Internet via 5G is what will change relationships between businesses and their customers.  Companies that use the data to better understand the way customers use their products will keep those customers longer.  Companies that use the data to spot trends in customer usage patterns will acquire new customers.

Customer Product/Service Mix
Strategy driven Customer Product/Service Mix

To get ready for 5G, companies need to make their marketing mix reflect the new ways they will interact with their customers.  For each of the quadrants shown above, ask yourself, how will fast, nearly instantaneous access change the way I look at my customers and they look at me.

Dennis Adams, PhD


Scroll to Top