Are you ready for the post-smartphone world?

5G’s ultra-fast wireless technology will change how consumers connect.

Businesses have become rightly wary of hype when it comes to new technologies. But 5G wireless tech might be worth turning off that cynicism. Promising incredible speed and breakthrough network computing power, 5G will alter consumer behaviour and expectations.

It’s going to change media, content and business as a whole.

20170815_1427500830“People understand that 5G is the next generation of wireless, but don’t understand how fundamentally different it’s going to be,” says Ryan Soutter, director of ad creative technology, Americas at Verizon Media. “It’s the most transformational leap in the history of wireless.”

It comes down to this: 5G allows more connected devices to run on a network, moves data near instantaneously and brings the hyper-connected Internet-of-Things future a lot closer.  As Soutter puts it, “we’re now entering into the post-smartphone era.”

While there is no solid timeline for 5G’s rollout in Canada, telcos are already installing their first 5G networks in U.S. cities (Verizon is currently running them in L.A., Sacramento, Indianapolis and Houston). Canadians will have the benefit of watching that industry evolve in the coming years — an essential learning period for brands that don’t want to lag the pack when 5G’s full capabilities come north.


North America currently struggles to make good on the promise of the Internet of Things. “We’re hitting 4G’s upper limit of bandwidth and throughput,” Soutter says, which is about 100,000 devices per square kilometer. “With so many connected devices coming online, carriers are starting to have a lot of issues with performance and dropped calls.”

But with 5G, that device limit will increase to a million per square kilometer. This will mean more, smarter connected cars, household devices and products that have yet to be invented.

But Soutter says the technology will really change consumer experiences “from an editorial, media and advertising standpoint.”

For example, ultrahigh-resolution 8K video was one of the buzziest topics at CES. “Right now, there’s not a great way to transmit 8K video and there’s not much content for it. You might remember we said the same thing about 4K when it came out.” WIth 5G, 8K content becomes as simple to transmit and receive as AM radio.

Verizon has opened a content lab in Los Angeles, collaborating with partners such as Disney to see how 5G can change entertainment in other ways. One of the cooler things it’s experimenting with is real-time digital animation. Current animation involves putting actors in motion capture suits and recording them against green screens. This creates footage that will be fully animated after the shoot. But with the processing capacity of a 5G network, powerful animation software can animate instantaneously. Could we see “live” animation performances on those fancy 8K televisions in the near future?

Soutter is perhaps most excited about augmented reality’s future in the 5G world. Network latency has always limited AR and VR’s potential. Soutter has been involved with the technology since 2014 and sees it becoming commonplace within years when 5G is able to move large-volume files directly to mobile devices faster than a heartbeat.

“Think about VR headsets too,” he adds. “The first high-end ones needed to be physically tethered into a very powerful computer to do their processing. They were really cumbersome, like our first generation of cell phones.”

Because 5G can move a lot of data so quickly, it can transmit information from VR and AR devices to be processed offsite. This means less hardware in headsets and handhelds, which makes them smaller and more practical, Soutter says. There are even patents being issued for contact lenses that could do AR.

“When devices no longer need to do the heavy processing, it really opens up possibilities,” he adds.


While 5G does not require the wholesale replacement of 3G and 4G infrastructure, it will take time to plan for and install the hardware region by region. However, major U.S. and Chinese telcos have already forged partnerships to build hardware that will scale to wider use. Verizon, for example, is working with Samsung on its four-city pilot project.

Until 5G becomes standard in major markets (which Soutter says is a timeframe measured in years), most regions will have several generations of technology (3G, 4G) overlapping with 5G, “so we’ll see a natural evolution of use over time” as people transition.  While Canada may not see its own widespread 5G system for a few years, Soutter says Canadian businesses should be studying the U.S. and China to watch this evolution unfold.

“You’re lucky to have the chance to see where people succeed and fail,” he says. “You’ll learn what content people will want and how businesses will change before having to invest a single dollar. A smart marketer or technology officer will be looking for ways their company can capitalize on a world where information – no matter how complex – moves instantaneously.”