5G: fast, connective and huge capacity - but is it worth it?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The majority of online content is now consumed on mobile devices. / Unsplash

With MWC happening this week, it's easy to get nostalgic about the history of mobile. Some of you reading this might remember 1G, distinguished of course by the infamous brick phone. If you were born in the mid-90s, like me, you might have seen them in a museum or TV show and probably scoffed something rotten at the fact that they were 'like' 300 times the size of your then RZR.

Then 2G, the distant echoes of polyphonic Crazy Frog patter in your ear drum (don’t blame me for the internal replay), where the capabilities stretched as far as SMS & Snake – were we not entertained?! Obviously not. The dawn of the mobile computer, data and the launch of the holy grail: iPhone (other makes/models definitely available) all thanks to 3G. Until we arrive at present times, 4G, with 60% of this article’s readership quite probably reading on a smartphone.

It’s true that with the dawn of each new Generation, attentions point immediately towards the telecoms industry and truer still for 5G. But what changes will rupture in the creative industry with the advent of 5G?

5G basics

Right, definition time, what the hell is it? In simplest terms: it’s a much much much more powerful version of the connectivity we’re used to now by using higher-frequency bands - 3.5 gigahertz to 26GHz and beyond… aaand I’m lost already (insert further tech jargon here).

So knowing all that we know (or lack thereof) what could we expect in terms of ramifications in the creative industry?

Demand will need to match supply

Say a gleeful goodbye to buffering as 5G is estimated to be up to 10 to 20 times faster in terms of download speed and capacity will be far greater owing to shorter wavelengths.

The appetite for video-based content will increase with video taking the crown for the preferred mode of communication – according to Wyzowl, 73% of people they surveyed said that after watching a video they’ve bought something, with 81% of marketeers asserting that sales have improved with the implementation of moving image. With marketeers gaining more and more awareness of video’s importance the demand will evermore increase meaning the supply chain will have to be as efficient.

Cisco estimates that by 2020, 82% of web traffic will consist of video, with visuals being processed 60,000 times faster than written word. Placing high-impact, attention grabbing video at the forefront of your planning will ensure that you’re not lost in the traffic jam. (probably get some great distribution behind you too!)

Mobile focus

According to Three’s CEO, done are the days of perching near your router while attempting to complete the latest Ru Paul download, as 5G might even replace the need for copper and fibre home broadband.

'Mobile-first' and 'vertical' may have become industry buzzwords in the last few years but get ready multiply the industry's mobile obsession by 1000000 because 5G will firmly establish mobile as the primary channel for marketeers. The utility of mobile continues to grow, with Statista claiming that globally in 2018 52.2% of all online traffic could be attributed to mobile – up from 50.3% in 2017, with 5G supplementing the ease of use who knows what the ratios will be like once fully implemented?

In a time obsessed with work/life balance and wellbeing 5G might enable this to be put in to practise with more opportunities for more industries to work remotely. Meaning further globalisation/international opportunities and of course, more reason to work from home, not to mention that precious extra hour of slumber. With 27% of HR Managers believing that employees work at a higher to much higher work standard at home according to YouGov, this can only mean a positive for productivity all round.

New brands

With 5G, opportunities will be presented to established brands as much as new obstacles. OnePlus (sorry, yes phones again but I promise its relevant) is showing itself to be a contender against the mighty Apple & Samsung market dominators in the race to release the first 5G capable device. Aside from product marketing opportunities, brands like these are entering other modes of marketing. For instance, OnePlus have recently entered the sponsorship fray, they recently partnered with McLaren. We should know, we made the promo.

Aside from new models of phones new businesses could come in to being: ten years ago I doubt we thought we’d be hailing a cab from inside a bar, ordering our Happy Meal en route home to time perfectly with your arrival. All while attending an online music concert as our avatar selves and catching virtual Pokémon. Keep your eyes open as new inventions will bring new opportunities for emerging new business.

Following suit, there’ll be new specialist agencies to contend with. Rather than seeing them as competition, think coalition, as collaboration will prove to be key. It’s starting already: just look at the way that Engine Group has realigned its business model to make it integrated fluidly rather than have separate namesakes shaded under the umbrella. In an oversaturated marketplace like ours, recognising your strengths and others' strengths is key here especially in terms of what is good for/demanded by your clients.

New tech

We’ve all heard about the amazing opportunities that 5G will bring for medical advancements (e.g. diagnostic technology and drone capabilities) and automotive (self-driving cars). But the potential for creative industries is super exciting too, if not a little hard to predict.

Certainly in video, digitally we’re seeing some really amazing advancements in terms of AI generated adverts, further; uninhibited VR experiences and AR experience with the release of Magic Leap. Far from being mere fads, they’re proving to be useful products (i.e enabling interactive shopping experiences) and who knows what opportunities these could bring. In terms of quality, 4K will, most definitely become the norm, perhaps we’ll be seeing 40K by the advent of 5G?!

No doubt you’ve assaulted by the most over-used word of the last year, “millennial,” & unless you’ve been living under a rock: experience > purchase. This extends to digital experience, not a new phenomenon but since Bandersnatch’s release we’ve noticed a lot more hubbub around the interactive possibilities of video which offer shoppable, immersive & personalised experience. By next year we’ll be seeing BTL going above & beyond with digital ad spend outreaching ATL and with 5G extending these possibilities, fix your sights on digital & tech particularly. Keep open-minded but be aware of your brand so as not to fall in to fad culture.

Top tips

- Keep open-minded but don’t sell yourself out.

- Be collaborative.

- Look for new kids on the block.

- Be aware of market demands and prioritise accordingly.

- Don’t jump to Brexit-like conclusions. For 5G to be fully integrated and fully useful it will take years beyond its 2020 release.

Truthfully, the actual impact of 5G is hard to predict - and with the suspected health, security and environmental concerns, I’m sure not all will be as positive picture painted here. However, one thing’s for sure - as with the advent of previous generations there will be plenty of exciting innovations and changes. So let's buckle up!

Martha Evans is client services & business development manager at Wing London

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.