Selling 5G to consumers will require cellcos to understand that the real differentiation of 5G over previous generations is not connectivity speeds, but services, solutions and machines.
That was a recurring theme across two separate panel sessions on the opening day of Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona on Monday.
During a panel on how 5G will create value for consumers, Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom, said that cellcos should bear in mind that the consumer context will radically change in the next few years. Not only will they own far more connected devices (i.e. smartphones, wearables, home appliances, cars etc), many of them will be “digital natives” who have completely different expectations from the previous generation of telecoms customers.
“Digital natives are aware of connectivity but they don’t think about it – they expect it to be there,” he said. “And they will have higher expectations of the digital experience.”
In that respect, he said, “5G is all about managing the consumer’s digital life – the connectivity, devices and services, as well as providing safeguards for privacy and security.”
Turkcell CTO Ilker Kuruoz made a similar point, saying that cellcos won’t be able to sell 5G as a brand in the same way they have in the past with 3G and 4G.
“Pushing generations as an umbrella brand is important, but from the consumer point of view, it’s not about connectivity, it’s about services,” he said. “So the industry may focus on branding the services that 5G enables, rather than just the connection itself.”
In the main hall during a keynote session on mobile disruption, Ralph de la Vega – vice chairman of AT&T and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions and AT&T International – agreed that connectivity, while important, won't be a selling point for prospective 5G customers. “We can’t sell connectivity – we have to sell solutions. That will make 5G more competitive and successful.”
In the same session, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said another key differentiator for 5G is that the bulk of its “customers” – in terms of connectivity – technically won’t even be human.
“4G is more about us – 5G will be more of a balance between us and machines, which will outnumber us 10 to 1,” he said. “That’s the main difference. Whether it’s snowboards or containers or drones, machines will make far greater use of 5G than people.”