There’s palpable excitement for 5G technology and what it can do. But thanks to a limited access to the 5G network and by less than impressive user experiences on that network, the roll-out, so far, has been somewhat slow and underwhelming.
Despite the hiccups and delays, major American network providers are marching on, and handset makers are looking to launch more 5G handsets in 2020. With all of the hopes of what 5G will bring, but considering the barriers to get there, will 2020 be the year of 5G?
Here’s what we expect to see in the next 12 months.
1. Will 5G go mainstream?
A highly debated topic in the industry, but honestly? Probably not.
For one, the network is still limited and will still be by the end of 2020. Even hearing that the network is limited will prevent consumers from jumping on the 5G bandwagon.
Second, what we’ve seen of 5G technology until now has been faster speeds in dedicated speed tests, but consumers won't pay a penny to switch to 5G until they can see just how it can make a difference, and that means showing real use cases of life with the next generation of mobile.
As for handset availability, there will be more 5G phones in 2020 than in 2019, obviously, but it’s the iPhone going 5G that would really make the impact to mainstream adoption of 5G. And there’s a fair debate whether Apple will launch a 5G iPhone in 2020, some saying that Apple tends to hold off on new technology.
5G device prices in 2019 were pretty prohibitive and prices will likely come down in 2020, which would help in adoption. But to counter that, consumers are holding on to their mobile phones longer and longer.
With all that said, don’t expect to see a ton of lift in your sales from 5G in 2020. It’s very likely that early adopters will jump on the 5G network in 2020,but we won’t see 5G go mainstream until 2021 and beyond.
2. Consumers get 5G educated, but the promise of faster speeds still wins
The American market, and some Asian markets, are leading the global charge in rolling out the 5G network. That means that 5G is the most unknown it will ever be to mobile consumers. The public perception revolves around "if 3G is faster than 4G, than 5G is much faster than 4G."
Of course, 5G is so more than just faster speeds, but it's the easiest piece for consumers to wrap their heads around. New technology can be overwhelming to consumers, and it takes time to digest what a new ‘G’ can entail. Carriers bear the brunt of educating the public on what this new generation of tech entails and what its possibilities are.
Network providers that tell the 5G story in 2020 will focus on showcasing what it can do. But when it comes to making the sale on a 5G handset or rate plan, expect to see faster speeds as the hook, since it’s still the most comprehensible benefit to the consumer.
3. Businesses lean into 5G
Due to quality issues with the network, the business community likely won’t switch to 5G on a mass scale this year, but there will be early adopters. Businesses that jump into 5G will do so because it will improve their business efficiency and increase their bottom line. Others will do so because being associated with the cutting edge technology will be good for improving their brand, such as public projects. Think:
Smart university campuses
5G providers should see 2020 as an opportunity to shape business community perception of 5G, and raise awareness around what is possible, as opposed to what is likely, with 5G. What other businesses could directly benefit from 5G technology, and how?
4. The need for network security sparks innovation
A wider adoption of 5G means more data is collected, and more often. But it also means there's more opportunity for data breaches.
With critical functions relying on 5G, like healthcare, utilities, and more, any security threat is more than an annoying lack of connectivity. Network downtime can result in injury or ill health. Just think, what would happen in the network went down on a smart city?
Network security has become a hot topic at mobile shows like MWC and is one of the main concerns of many a wireless CTO. There is a huge opportunity here for innovation around ensuring network security for the 5G network. Expect to see a growing number of players in this space in 2020 and beyond.
So, what does that all mean?
There are a lot of unknowns in terms of how quickly the full possibilities of 5G will become part of everyday lives, and just how it will change our lives. This year will be a pretty important one for the road to 5G and building the anticipation for the technology transformation. If any part of 5G goes mainstream in 2020, it will be the anticipation for it. And the biggest areas of opportunity are in building that anticipation.
If you want to learn more about how to prepare for 5G, check out our free whitepaper, "How Will 5G Impact Wireless Retailers?".