Bloomberg Media event looks at the future of 5G

Jen Robinson

“We’re at the peak of the hype cycle for 5G,” said Bloomberg Intelligence’s John Butler at a well-attended event in New York last week. “But I believe it’s one of those special technologies, with the power to change the world as dramatically as the smartphone has since its introduction just over ten years ago.”

To help unpack how 5G cellular networks will be different from previous generations – and what that means for marketers – Bloomberg Media Group convened its second “Outlook On…” breakfast, in conjunction with Bloomberg Intelligence (the company’s research platform that provides context on industries, companies, credit and government policy). The event series, which kicked off last fall with an exploration of the rapidly evolving nexus of media, tech and telecom companies, is designed to connect marketers with expert perspective on the most important trends and technologies.

Bloomberg Media Group Global Chief Revenue Officer Keith A. Grossman welcomed guests to the event, which featured insight-rich discussion Verizon 5G Labs Director Christian Guirnalda as well as Butler, who is Bloomberg Intelligence’s Senior Analyst for Telecommunications Services and Equipment.

Bloomberg Media Group hosted “Outlook On… The Future of 5G” at Bloomberg Headquarters in New York on February 22, 2019.

Butler opened the event with a data-driven briefing. “What I’m excited about with 5G is the advanced applications we’re going to see emerge over time,” he said. 2019 will see deployment to the top 30 markets, Butler said, while in 2020 the pace of deployment will markedly increase.

“We are headed to a truly wireless world – immersive, tactile internet; wireless VR. We’ve only seen the beginning of what augmented reality will be able to do. Autonomous cars will also be part of it, and multi-person video calls – think Facetime on steroids. The mobile workforce will come into its own. Everything will get connected.”

All of these new connections will result in far more available data, along with advanced analytics, Butler added. “Today’s data is post-predictive – you’re getting the data, you’re analyzing it, and then you’re acting on it,” he said. “5G is going to allow real-time analytics.”

For example, a retailer now “would probably have some good data on who has walked in and out of your stores, and some basic demographics,” he said. With 5G, “You’ll know who’s in the store. You’ll know what their preferences are, and what their buying history is. Customer care will go to a whole new level – you’ll be able to keep in constant touch with them.”

And that’s just one possible example. As 5G allows thousands of new devices to become connected to networks, most businesses are focused on the internet of things (IoT), Butler said. Healthcare applications could include remote surgery; manufacturers will be able to run their factories with greatly enhanced efficiency.

Automation, AI, and speed of connection will all increase – driving different ways of collaborating and working. “Think about how you’re going to engage your clients wirelessly,” Butler added. “Client expectations will change completely.”

Keith A. Grossman, Bloomberg Media Group Global Chief Revenue Officer, left, talks with John Butler, Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Analyst for Telecommunications Services and Equipment, center, and Christian Guirnalda, Director, Verizon 5G Labs, right. Photo: Susanne Stansell/Bloomberg

Christian Guirnalda, the Director of Verizon’s multi-location 5G Labs, followed Butler with a look at what his teams have been building in incubators across the country. “My goal is to show you a little about what 5G means for humans,” Guirnalda said. “What does 5G mean for people who are using it to change the way they learn, the way they work, the way they connect with other people?”

5G may be top of mind in the tech and industry broadly, but it’s also top of mind in government, Guirnalda pointed out.  “Ultimately, it’s about driving economic growth, it’s about helping people live better lives,” he said. “That’s where we want to take it. The fun part is, I get to find and work with the people who want to create new experiences for customers, and give them the tools to go and do that.”

Last October, Verizon launched the first 5G product on the planet: 5G Home. It rolled out in four markets: Indianapolis, Sacramento, Houston and Los Angeles. “When you think of cellular connectivity, people mostly think about the phone in their pocket. But it’s not just the phone – it’s about fixed locations,” Guirnalda said. For the 5G Home debut, he said, “What that means is that we’re using the 5G network to deliver broadband to a fixed location – homes, apartments, small businesses.” And nothing needs to be installed in those locations with wires.

Soon, 5G-enabled phones and hotspots will be introduced. “You’ll be able to take that same type of  broadband connectivity that you have in your 5G home and you can bring it to the park,” Guirnalda said. “This sets the stage for a lot of the new things that can get built.”

In each of the five cities that hosts a Verizon 5G Lab, the company has built a 5G ecosystem that brings together technologists, experts from various industries and partners that Verizon co-creates with. The facilities host programming, 5G meet-ups, and forums as well as building and testing applications. Each city has a slightly different focus: fintech, entertainment, robotics and more.

Watch: At Verizon’s 5G Incubator, ChalkTalk is using 5G to transform education

He shared several examples of their work, including one partner that helps cities improve traffic flow and make pedestrians safer by analyzing video. “Now, data doesn’t have to just come from a sensor – it can come from video. When that video is hi-res and streams over a 5G network, you can get more valuable information that allows cities to manage environments.”

In education, a multi-person virtual classroom with head-mounted augmented reality displays could offer new ways to learn that far outstrip the textbook. “It’s using 5G to convert the world from 2D to 3D,” Guirnalda said. “It’s going from one way to interactive.” A head-mounted display, for example, could have the information it shows changed in real time, while teachers and students communicate using their phones.

Over time, Guirnalda added, the equipment will change from its current bulky form to something resembling ordinary glasses. “Not only is 5G going to change the application, it’s going to change the experience, it’s going to change the hardware,” he said. “It can solve problems in ways we just didn’t have the capability to do before.”

Read next:
Bloomberg Media event explores how media mergers impact marketers