The five major shifts in consumer behaviour that 5G will cause

George Dixon, product and strategy director at Mobsta, looks at the likely impact of 5G on our everyday mobile lives.

Mobsta George DixonAs the dust settles on another Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the introduction of 5G sets the stage for the future of mobile and the wider digital media landscape. Could the 5G revolution really take back power from the big ad monopolies, see the end of wi-fi, and even save lives? Before we get lost in the increasing crescendo of noise around the oncoming mobile revolution, we, at Mobsta, think it’s important to take a look at what 5G will offer consumers and what the impact could be on brands, agencies, publishers and tech platforms.

Not just another G
5G is more than just a faster internet connection for mobile devices; it’s a change in mobile operator infrastructure that could, in time, bring an end to the need for broadband connections and wi-fi technology. Would you switch to wi-fi when you’re in a shopping centre when 5G offers speeds up to 10GB/s, giving you the ability to download high definition content in seconds? Would you switch to wi-fi while travelling on a train when 5G offers this level of performance when the user is travelling at speeds of up to 500km/h?

Dropping connection when you’re out and about should be a thing of the past. The ability for outdoor infrastructures to cheaply, and easily, roll out a 5G network using mobile operator technology (like the Ericsson Radio Dot system that can comfortably connect millions of devices) will make the headaches of finding your friends in a crowd or uploading your experiences to Instagram while at Wembley a thing of the past.

The operator power shift
It’s no secret that smartphones have turned mobile operators into utilities; ‘dumb pipes’ to connect your device to the internet. Many believe that 5G is a ‘first last chance’ for operators to take back some power from Google and Apple. With a greater volume of devices sending data directly through a cellular connection, rather than through apps, those apps and publishers will no longer be the main repository of data.

Compounding this inbuilt operator advantage, if operators are the owners of consumer data, does GDPR opt-in occur when a new contract is signed? It certainly gives operators an advantage over apps and publishers. Not that this circumvents GDPR; it may simply allow a clearer value exchange for consumers, providing a greater understanding of who is using their data and what they can expect in return.

Location data on an operator level is expected to improve too because of the new 5G infrastructure, with predictions from AT&T suggesting increasing location granularity to millimetres. Operator data is already more accurate and richer than other sources of location data, but 5G’s precision will give them a significantly more in-depth view of consumer location behaviours and dwell time.

The shift from deterministic to probabilistic (more efficient and effective AI).
A greater volume of data in the operator space from more devices means that probabilistic models and their outputs have the potential to become even more precise. To date, media planners and marketers have relied on smaller deterministic data sets, but probabilistic models, by which we mean more efficient AI models, become more and more accurate as scale kicks in. Over time, our reliance on deterministic insight could decrease.

The shift in consumer tolerance
It’s been well documented that today’s ad ecosystem has the potential to jar with the latency of 5G, as page loads are slowed down by hidden tags and redirects loading and firing. While an evolution of this infrastructure is required, any publishers that are slow adopters could potentially see consumers turn off slow, or delayed, experiences.

In response, we may see publishers remove tags from sites so that latency speed bumps aren’t impacting ad experiences. This can only help sites and walled gardens in the short term where third-party ad serving and tracking is minimal, or non-existent. Programmatic models already built for 5G will have an advantage, as old systems develop to change.

The shifting expectations of key verticals
Products such as AR and VR have, to date, remained in their infancy. In most instances they are considered a luxury that require significant connected computing power and robust data connections. 5G could hail the advent of these growing technologies, with consistent and high-frequency connection both indoors and outdoors, supported by a quick-to-install and incredibly energy-efficient 5G infrastructure.

‘Edge’ cloud computing, supported by 5G, could reduce the bulk of these technologies and the need to be restricted to indoor use, allowing brands to offer immersive brand experiences utilising both technologies. The consistent connection will also help the growing revolution of self-driving cars, greatly improving the seamless networking ability between vehicles that will be required for self-drive to overtake manual-drive in the coming decades. Self-drive cars are being proven to cause fewer accidents than manual-drive, so 5G could literally be a live-saver.

The shift in market pressure
Consumers will no doubt be quick to adopt 5G as the technology becomes more widely available. This will take time, despite the staggered rollout of 5G cities this year, but brands, agencies, publishers and technology platforms need to be preparing for this now, or risk being left behind in the years to come. Early adopters will be the most outspoken. In turn, consumer preferences and behaviours will change. As soon as this becomes more and more evident, brands will start asking tough questions of their agencies if they are not already planning ahead for 5G. You need to establish today which partners are ready to thrive in a 5G world and provide a coherent near- and long-term strategy for what you’re doing to prepare. Only then can you set the stage for the future of mobile and, perhaps, more.

Huge opportunity
5G represents a huge opportunity for brands, agencies and, of course, consumers. Smartphones and the eventual introduction of 4G led to the creation of entirely new industries and companies like Uber and Deliveroo. It will be exciting to see what the future and 5G delivers and what industries will be created out of the next giant leap in telecommunications.