Is the 5G revolution finally here?
The arrival of 5G—and excitement around its potential to transform digital engagement—has been heralded for years. 5G first captured public interest in 2018, which the Washington Post dubbed “the year of 5G hype,” but behaviors, devices and network infrastructure needed time to catch up. Could we finally be approaching the 5G revolution?
User behavior indicates that we are. Half of all mobile users say they’re streaming more content on their smartphones than they were before the pandemic—debunking the common assumption that most mobile streaming takes place on the go. 53% of respondents across the US, UK, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, Korea, and China report that they’re using their phones to stream more now than prior to the pandemic, and nearly a third (32%) report no change in their streaming habits, according to a November 2020 survey conducted by global app marketing analytics platform Adjust.
Device functionality is also advancing. By 2026, more than 75% of smartphones are expected to be 5G-enabled, according to a new report by Mobile Experts. Simultaneously, augmented, mixed and virtual reality capabilities have matured, and are slotting seamlessly into mobile applications. From Gucci’s virtual shoe to Snapchat’s AR lenses, blended reality activations are becoming commonplace—and need the digital infrastructure to support them.
Communications providers are gearing up, building out 5G-capable networks, devices and experiences. In June 2021, Nokia announced that it will deploy its 5G standalone (SA) Core for Dish on Amazon Web Services (AWS), marking the world’s first deployment of 5G in the public cloud. The same month, Samsung and Vodafone announced a new partnership to supply 5G network equipment in the UK, and Verizon launched its first commercially available private 5G network in the US for businesses and government offices.
Earlier in the year, Verizon turned to 5G to reimagine the fan experience for Super Bowl LV viewers. The Verizon 5G SuperStadium in the NFL mobile app let fans jump between up to seven different camera angles and project AR overlays of NFL’s Next Gen Stats for players. “Reimagining live events is one of the best use cases for the power of 5G,” Verizon CMO Diego Scotti said in a statement. Highlighting the power of 5G for gaming, Verizon also teamed up with Epic Games to build a virtual stadium in Fortnite, where fans could attend meet-and-greets and play exclusive mini-games with avatars of NFL players.
As mobile behavior evolves and digital applications become more sophisticated, consumers will expect their mobile network providers to keep up. “There’s been an extreme acceleration in the digital revolution, and at the heart of that transformation is 5G technology,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said in his CES 2021 keynote address, where he pointed to 5G as the framework of the 21st century. “5G isn’t just another tech innovation; it’s the platform that makes other innovations possible.”
Main image of 5G Stadium in Fortnite Creative courtesy of Verizon