Verizon’s latest 5G pitch? We can use it to save the world

Ronan Dunne kicked off 2019's Web Summit today (5 November)

As the network providers ramp up competitive marketing around their 5G offerings, Verizon’s group chief executive has elevated its own narrative to a higher plane regarding the survival of the planet.

In the US, the company has been pushing the latest leap in internet connectivity through its NFL stadium partnerships. The company has launched 5G across 13 American stadiums, using the rollout to ask ‘if Verizon 5G can do this for the NFL, imagine what it can do for you?’

Under the banner #5GBuiltRight, the brand is looking to grow nationwide interest in the fifth generation of cellular networks by building it in high-profile locations before it becomes widely available. According to Engadget, the wide-open spaces of a football field are perfect to debut the speeds of 5G to consumers as the mmWave it travels on cannot penetrate hard surfaces such as concrete.

However, Verizon has concurrently begun to push a more existential message on a global level, positioning 5G as a partial solution to worldwide issues such as climate change and energy consumption.

Ronan Dunne, Verizon’s executive vice-president and group chief executive officer, took to the stage at Web Summit in Lisbon to explain how 5G energy consumption will be equal to just 10% of the power currently needed to power 4G.

With the full force of technology such as the internet of things and AI unleashed by the speeds of 5G, he said, humanity will “have the potential to greatly improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and resource usage across production cycles ... right across the supply chain”.

He added Verizon’s sensors and autonomous devices running on 5G speed will “give scientists and policymakers more information about our climate ... much more quickly”.

“These will move together to mitigate climate change and help communities to adapt,” he said.

“Humanity is not going to shrink itself out of this problem – we have to innovate out of it. I believe the fourth industrial revolution could halt and even reverse the damage set in motion by the previous three.”

Dunne’s emphatic belief in 5G’s ability to affect “the future of our planet” is echoed by the political work being carried out by Verizon’s chairman and chief executive, Hans Vestberg.

The Swedish exec represented the company at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where – among other points – he explained how Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband could be used to ease traffic congestion and reduce CO2 emissions.

“Together, our longstanding commitment to sustainability and energy-efficient is swiftly transforming our business culture at Verizon,” said Dunne.

Hours after his speech had wrapped, Verizon published a blog post entitled ‘What does 5G mean?’, which focused less on the speed of consumer mobile usage and more on what it will mean for “people, communities and the planet”.

The beginning of the 5G wars

Verizon’s positioning of its 5G offering within popular climate change discourse comes as its rival carriers are looking to distinguish their own super-fast offer to consumers.

Roger Solé, Sprint’s chief marketing officer, recently told Business Insider his brand’s merger with T-Mobile will create a company “offering the best 5G experience in the [US]” for consumers, while AT&T is promising its own 5G roll-out will “jumpstart the next wave of unforeseen innovation” in America.

However, the ambiguous definition of a functioning 5G network has landed a number of brands in hot water.

In the UK, carrier EE complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the truthfulness of rival Three’s ad, which claimed it ‘If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G’.

Tactics in the US have been dirtier: September saw T-Mobile launch its combative ‘VerHIDEzon’ campaign accusing Verizon of asking customers to pay a premium for a 5G system that isn’t yet ready.

“They’re hiding behind more ‘launches’ of 5G (where? They won’t tell you, but you’ll pay more for it), hiding behind claims of ‘leadership’ and technical prowess that just aren’t true any longer, hiding behind an unprecedented ad blitz, and literally hiding 5G from their customers by refusing to show them exactly where it’s deployed,” wrote T-Moline’s chief technology officer, Neville Ray.

“It’s time Big Red had a wake-up call.”

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