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What will really happen with 5G?

Updated: May 28, 2020


When I mentioned 5G to a typical mobile operator CMO two years ago and advised him to prepare for it, he did not seem in a hurry and his instinctive response was: “When will Apple come with the first 5G phones?” This indicated to me a fundamental misconception.

For some, as you see most clearly in Japan, South Korea and potentially also China, operators and consumers see 5G as another speed upgrade from their 4G devices – and expect to make the most of it. This speed increase is probably also what most consumers believe across the globe, but the basic question is: Do consumers feel they need this upgrade? … and when?

While the initial small 5G launches by operators were seen in 2019, we will see the majority of 5G smartphones coming out in 2020. This will enable this 4G to 5G upgrade – and it will be interesting to see what the take-up will be – and how this varies across countries and regions.

The misconception here, which is not surprising when it concerms consumers, as what they see is generally their smartphones, is that 5G is not really about faster smartphones. 5G is about digitalization of industries (and societies). For operators this will mean that they will have to focus on their B2B market in a much stronger manner, which they are not really very used to, and to work very much more in collaboration with enterprise customers. For enterprises across all kinds of verticals, or the public sector, they will have to consider 5G in the perspective of digital transformation – and they will have to work with operators and/or other players like IT companies, platform providers or system integrators to cover their specific needs or applications. 5G devices for industrial use might also differ from smartphones.

Consumers, on the other hand, may simply await the faster smartphones – or they might be offered new 5G experiences with other types of devices e.g. for gaming. Time will show …

The future is always difficult to predict, and I may be wrong. However, these are my thoughts as of today. At the current time, we have CES happening in Las Vegas – and in a months’ time we will have MWC 2020 in Barcelona – with some other key events in between. It is quite clear that 2020 will be an exciting year in this area. 😊

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