Nick Riggall
Nick Riggall 11 March 2019

5G at Mobile World Congress: The Latest Developments and Opportunities for Branded Experiences

News that 5G will be reaching British shores in late 2019 means brands must prepare for a new world in which connected high streets, driverless vehicles and 5G smartphones will soon become a reality. With super-fast internet speeds and major upgrades to the mobile experience, potential applications abound, this includes 5G enabled Brand Experience. Nick Riggall, VP Digital Strategy at George P. Johnson explores the latest developments in 5G.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry. In recent years, it has expanded exponentially to include all sorts of technological innovation, spanning cars, robots, AI animatronic heads and everything in between. Mobile devices and communication however remain deeply entrenched at the event’s core.

Intelligent Connectivity underpinned this year’s MWC, with 5G a major component. This is hardly surprising, as early adopter markets, which include the UK, are set to experience the fifth generation of mobile communications by the end of the year, with others joining by 2022. Brands are already bracing for the new world of connected high streets, driverless vehicles and the possibilities 5G brings for brand experiences. As the technology is still in its infancy, this is prime time to get to know 5G. So, what is the current state of play?

New devices joining the fold

The world of mobiles is set to look utterly different by the end of the year. This week saw the launch of what can arguably be described as the next phase in mobile devices – foldables. The folding screen has been touted as a catalyst for dwindling global handset sales, against the backdrop of the impending 5G launch.

Mirroring consumer goods challenges, consumer tech is becoming ever more reliable and less easy to drive obsolescence through innovation.  But in the weeks leading up to and during MWC19, we saw brands from around the globe reveal, and in some cases immediately lock away in glass cases, phones, tablets and phone-tablet hybrids, or ‘phablets’ if you like – the terminology is still up for grabs frankly.

The devices I personally demoed relied on specific apps built-in to highlight how 5G can unlock dual screening on one handset. I couldn’t help but wonder whether dual screening is the new second screening.

5G is here…led by 4.5G experiences

From Samsung (S10 & Fold) to Huawei (Mate X) to LG (V50 Thing) to Xiaomi (Mi Mix 3), we have an industry hard at work prototyping and launching 5G-enabled devices, in addition to introducing new services and capabilities. But in spite of the spike in innovation, there is still a key element missing – the network on which all these devices will be able to operate at their optimum capacity.

Deutsche Telekom, the winner of the European 5G Pioneer Award, is one of various companies that have been building hype around the imminent commercial launch of 5G in Europe. The rollout however has stalled, which suggests we’re not as ready for 5G as we’ve been repeatedly told.

It’s not all momentum with zero results. Spearheaded by EE, the first UK networks will begin operating 5G in key cities by the end of 2019.  The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimates the continent-wide rollout will cost between €300bn to €500bn. Meeting this commitment will be a challenge for governments without the relevant, immediate business cases.

Opportunities for 5G-enabled brand experiences

Brands and agencies alike have great opportunities at their fingertips as a result of the new tech. Wembley Stadium, London, is one such example, with 5G already in pilot mode, exploring possibilities in redefining live sport broadcasting. This will enable BT to reduce its onsite infrastructure and support for live coverage.

Consumers, meanwhile, will gain a much different viewing experience, both at the stadium and at home. At MWC19, LG showcased the ability to tailor a live experience with its dual screen device, which allows slow-motion content, alongside the ability to change camera angles during live footage.

As far as customer experiences go, mobile operators are set to get there first. From connected high streets to upgraded transport infrastructure, enabling 5G seems to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. Nevertheless, streaming Netflix on the go without any buffering is a far more likely kick-off for the new tech.

Permanent spaces, such as sports stadiums, museums and other venues, are primed for 5G, thanks partly to the simpler commercial model in place and the consistent, predictable need for customer experiences. The spectrum will unlock quicker connections, making cloud processing, content (XR) and streaming commonplace.

5G is poised to open up a world of new opportunities for brands, bringing to life customer experiences previously not possible. At George P. Johnson, we’re already exploring how this extra bandwidth, new devices and services can unlock powerful moments for clients.

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