The future belongs to the media and tech companies that can harness 5G

If the future of mobile is video and the future of video is mobile, how does that exactly happen — and is it good for people, brands and everyone’s experience?

It’s a big question, but it’s a key question on everyone’s mind as we consider AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. Are we seeing a watershed moment of the future of in- and out-of-home media consumption, the promise of addressable experiences, next-generation advertising and Internet of Things connectivity? Or not?

When I was at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February, I wrote a Voices essay for Recode that highlighted five key technology and device trends that would impact marketers and digital and traditional media companies quickly. One of them was the emergence of 5G technology.

5G is essentially broadband-like speeds anywhere you go. The difference in speed between 4G LTE and 5G in the demos I saw on the showroom floor blew me away. It was not a small difference — it was a four- to five-second difference in speed. This makes streaming and downloading large video files a piece of cake and suddenly opens the door to video consumption virtually anywhere and everywhere, on any device, without a broadband connection. This is a game-changer, because more than 60 percent of tablet or video viewing today is still in the home, over broadband.

Now, the infrastructure and capex investments required for 5G are, no doubt, large. The telcos will need to invest like never before. But, given a new White House administration and the houses of Congress seem ready to ease a tight telco regulatory environment, it’s likely that the infrastructure investment will be there. And, no doubt, the revenue and growth potential of combining high-speed video with mobile portability and unique ID-targeting capabilities will incentivize every media and wireless company to get into this game, and quickly.

As my friends at MoffettNathanson Research point out, the federal government treating AT&T and Verizon more like the large digital companies versus the old telecom companies is a game-changer. It clears the way for some very interesting times ahead, and a major push into the advertising and marketing sectors by companies ready to change targeting, data and viewing. When you add the promise of data-rich targeting at the unique ID level (devices, not cookies) and addressable advertising-monetization potential, it all gets very interesting.

But what else is game-changed ?

  • When video is delivered faster and faster, a person’s internet experience gets better and better. Some 38 percent of people say they use ad blockers because their experience is slowed down and everything takes too long to load. Will ad blockers be needed as much when everything speeds up?
  • Distributors who have had a traditional lock on content and content creators will start to reshuffle: AT&T, Comcast’s NBCU or Amazon become as important as ABC and Facebook in aggregating audiences and matching advertisers to targets who are likely to watch, click, shop and buy. We will see more consolidation, as the most powerful, best distributors who offer the best mobile experience separate themselves from those who do not have truly cross-screen, device-to-device portability and ease of use.
  • The advent of the Internet of Things is coming faster than anyone thinks. IoT (sensors and devices) is on pace to replace mobile phones as the most connected device by 2018, growing at more than 20 percent annually. Cellular connects are expected to jump from 400 million to 1.5 billion devices by 2021, according to Ericsson. All these devices need faster and faster speeds to operate more deeply and more powerfully for people, their cars, their homes and their lives. It will have profound impact on how much data is used in-home and out of home, and will eventually upend the advertising ecosystem. If you are having trouble producing creative in a pop-up or banner ad, how exactly do you do it with an Alexa “voice command” or on your digital thermostat?
  • The e-commerce and media journey, already folding over themselves, truly collapse. The ability to “watch and click,” or “view and buy,” or “speak and order” in the same experience becomes real. The opportunity to create truly addressable content, advertising and commerce experiences could dramatically change the business models of YouTube, Netflix or Facebook. Amazon is already working on this, and it remains to be seen if they can truly integrate Prime shopping, Video and Alexa. It also gives Comcast NBCU or a future AT&T + Time Warner the incentive to reinvent their business and use data to make advertising and content better and more relevant to targeted groups of people.

The future belongs to the bold, as disruption is all around us. And it belongs to the media and technology companies that can harness 5G, easy-connect internet in and out of the home, and an ever-increasing array of targeted, addressable and commerce experiences that are mobile and cross-screen.

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