What the 5G revolution will do to mobile marketing

5G networks are on their way to Australian shores. We investigate how this next-generation network technology will change the way mobile apps, advertising, experiences and event industries interact

Network revolution

Not every use of mobile technology has been put to obvious and defined need of course – think Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go – but all have taken advantage of the greater data transfer speeds each successive network upgrade has delivered.

But while 3G and 4G networks were very consistent in terms of what they offered – faster data transfer speeds translating to greater bandwidth and accelerated throughout – the benefits of 5G are more complex.

According to chief technology officer at digital communications specialist company Broadcast Australia, Stephen Farrugia, one of the keys to understanding 5G is to not think of it as a single network, but as three.

“It is actually a mesh of networks, or a heterogenous network where you can have massive broadband as one of the facets, you can have critical machine communication as another facet, and then massive machine-to-machine type communication as another facet,” Farrugia says.

The reason for these different capabilities stems from the 5G standard, which incorporates three different bands in the electromagnetic spectrum to carry its signals. While previous network architectures have also used a spread of spectrum, the bands used in those networks were actually quite close together, Hence, network performance would be similar.

5G, however, uses spectrum in the 1GHz band, 3.5GHz band, and 26 – 28GHz band (also known as millimetre wavelength). Millimetre wavelength can carry enormous amounts of information, making it suitable for use cases that might otherwise rely on Wi-Fi today, such as transmitting high-definition video, while being able to cover much greater distances than that technology.

However, millimetre wavelength has an effective range significantly shorter than that of 4G networks, requiring transmission towers to be as close as a few hundred metres apart to be effective. This pushes up the cost of network deployments significantly compared to 4G, but will essentially unshackle network users from bandwidth limitations and congestion that plague current 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks.

“What the 5G network promises, and it depends on the extent to which people invest in it, but those capacity limitations will largely go away,” Farrugia explains. “That millimetre wave spectrum has huge capacity, and the high frequency means it is more like using a laser pointer to communicate so each device gets great bandwidth.”

Farrugia sees 5G having the greatest focus on machine applications. He suggests thinking of 5G as a machine-to-machine network technology, rather than primarily on human-to-human communication, which was the centre of 3G and 4G network design.

“It is a network that has people there, but it is about more about how it enables people to do more, rather than being people-centric,” Farrugia says. “Most of the companies who are starting to roll this out today are talking about fixed wireless access and massive broadband to mobile devices.”

The reason why 5G mobile networks are critical is because they are a foundational enabler to connect organisations in a fourth industrial revolution world

Rocky Scopelliti


Industry 4.0

Another critical benefit of the 5G standard is that it brings improvements in security and reliability, reducing connection drop-outs and the impact of interference while ensuring greater privacy in communications. For these reasons, many industry pundits are predicting the true impact of 5G will not be based on the experiences it can deliver to consumers in the short term, but on what it does for industries over the long term. This overarching transformation is described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.

According to author and director of the Centre for Industry 4.0 at Optus, Rocky Scopelliti, 5G should be thought of as the connectivity that brings together a range of other technologies, including the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

“The reason why 5G mobile networks are critical is because they are a foundational enabler to connect organisations in a fourth industrial revolution world,” he says. “They will enable hyperconnectivity through the Internet of things and the exponential increase in the number of sensors, objects, devices and things. And they can do this at performance levels that fourth-generation networks can’t do today.

“Data, and the way organisations think about the utilisation of data through their production processes, really becomes the lifeblood of the enterprise.”

And as organisations come to be more defined by their software, their ability to use software to benefit their business will be more critical.

“Fifth-generation networks are software defined,” Scopelliti says. “Software-defined networks enable them to consume a network as a set of services, rather than as fixed costs that they have to stand up in their own environments and own data centres and then manage themselves. You can deploy capacity and functions of a network when you need it, where you need it, and in whatever quantities you need it, and you consume it as a service.

“The network becomes the environment that the business model will live within.”

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