Ever since EE announced back in February that it was a mere 18 months away, 5G mobile network tech has been lurking somewhere ahead of us. It’s a prospect that now stands firmly in front, with the first trial network launched in East London as of this month, and with promises of speeds up to 10GB per second and latency of potentially under a millisecond, it’s a serious one indeed. That’s a full-HD movie in less than 10 seconds, or an online gaming experience on-the-go with zero lag (and zero excuse for your lame Fortnite skills).
Chief EE network architect, Andy Sutton, puts it like this:
If we get 5G right, there
won’t necessarily be a 6G.
So, does this mean mobile networks are about to reveal their mightiest form? Is this the final frontier for our connected digital world? Will I stop using such clichéd sci-fi phraseology? The answer to these questions and more is… maybe.
I’m not a mobile network architect, but I am a social media professional, so the most interesting way for me to ponder this one is to consider what impact 5G will have on the way brands reach their audience, and whether there’s the potential for that relationship to be transformed entirely. If we take existing social trends for example, then we can see that livestreaming is only going to get bigger. Even in the 4G era, it’s been a growing way for people to experience content in a more immediate way, and with that extra speed it’s going to be even easier for brands of all types and sizes to reach their audience. In lovely 4K too.
5G certainly isn’t going to hurt the video format, and if they have a virtually instant download, then we’ll be able to get people’s attention even more quickly. With such efficient download speeds, perhaps consumers will even be willing to view longer-form video. An incredible opportunity to reward their time with more detailed creative. On a similar note, it will be easier for brands to keep connected with audiences. 4G works well enough but imagine never having to wait to load a Facebook Canvas or a comments section. If a person wants to take the next step, find out more or make a purchase, then there may be nothing stopping them from doing that immediately. A valuable social experience that leads seamlessly into the next stage.
There are many ways 5G will help improve existing social trends, but is there anything it might change to the fundamentals? Augmented Reality has started to evolve beyond its humble social origins in SnapChat, but 5G might be the key to unlocking the full potential of the technology. The Layered Realities Weekend here in Bristol used the ultra-low latency of 5G to turn Millennium Square into an over-crowded, dystopic nightmare (and it wasn’t even Harbour Fest); but how could brands big or small use AR as intricate as this for their social strategy? Could expectant mums experience Aptaclub ads on Facebook that help prepare them for birth through simulation? Or perhaps it could be used to show what a Barratt new build home of the future will look like?
The Internet of Things is another topic closely associated with 5G, and it’s predicted that a massive amount of common household objects will become smart devices. With driverless cars in particular being touted to benefit the most from the tech, and O2 also forecasting that it will help reduce the daily chores of life, one reality is that people will simply have more time on their hands to engage with social content. Another great opportunity for brands to fill the space with experiences. There will be five times the existing amount of connected smart devices across the world by the time 5G arrives, so could it be that social output might even be delivered to more places in our lives outside of the typical digital devices?
I’m imagining following Nintendo across my usual social accounts, only for updates, news and videos to be pushed out to every smart device I have. The latest Let’s Play comes straight to me in my driverless car, or a podcast autoplays out of my toaster as part of a morning wake-up call. My iPhone would merely be the mother brain to my digital skeleton. This is all before we even consider how this connectivity would affect things like Analytics and Listening tools, which is a whole other blog itself. With all these new ways to connect our day-to-day lives, we’ll have an even deeper layer of insight into consumer behaviour. And with even more ways to reach our audience, and more quickly too, surely it will be even easier to implement User Generated Content as part of a social strategy.
These are just a handful of (possibly insane) ideas on how 5G will change the way we live and reach people. While we have a good idea of what to expect from the tech, what it will be exactly is still a concept in development. Heck, even O2 are trying to cast a little more light on the situation by working with pureLiFi, a tech firm that uses light waves to transmit more data to areas with less mobile coverage. Likewise, the way we use Social Media in 2020 is yet to be determined, but getting excited about the creative possibilities is irresistible. So, can we expect a giant leap in the way brands use social when 5G arrives? At first, probably not, but after a little waddle forward, then a few bigger steps, I think we’ll be sprinting to keep up with each other in a race to reach consumers in an immediate, intricately-connected digital landscape. One where the line between our daily lives, and social media, will be drawn thinner than ever before.