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“Faster bandwidth unlocks new ways to tell stories”: Publishers get ready for 5G

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Opensignal, a mobile analytics company, recently released its analysis of 5G performance in eight countries. According to the report, “5G boosts the maximum real-world download speed by up to 2.7 times 4G users’ top speeds.” 

Users in the US (1815 Mbps) experienced the highest speeds, followed by Switzerland (1145 Mbps), and South Korea (1071 Mbps). 

“The market is moving quickly”

The report states that download speeds in the US were significantly greater than the rest of the countries because operators in the US were able to use the mmWave spectrum for 5G.

It states, mmWave is “extremely high capacity and extremely fast spectrum but has very limited coverage compared with the 3.4-3.8 GHz 5G “mid-band” spectrum typically used in most of the other countries we analyzed where mmWave spectrum is not yet available.”

This is just the start of the 5G era and the market is moving quickly. More 5G services will launch using more spectrum and wider channels — there are few 5G services currently using 5G’s ideal 100 MHz channel size  — and 5G technology evolves to be able to combine the performance of multiple 5G channels and bands together to boost both the maximum and average 5G speeds and further improve the mobile user experience of 5G users.

Ian Fogg, VP Analysis, Opensignal

Opensignal claims to analyze true end-to-end network experience of mobile users. This means their findings reflect the typical real-world experience of smartphone users.

It’s significant for publishers who are looking at 5G to open up new opportunities for storytelling, as well as make emerging technologies like AR and VR viable. 

With 5G, latency i.e., the lag due to the time taken by data to travel back and forth, will be greatly reduced. This will enable better AR and VR experience, as well as smooth streaming of HD and Ultra HD videos. 

“Poised to be a very big deal”

Other emerging technologies like Artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain will see new uses with 5G. They may also be combined in innovative ways, to create new business opportunities for publishers.

The New York Times launched a 5G journalism lab earlier this year to explore how the technology can be used in journalism. The publisher announced, “At The New York Times, we’re interested in how higher and faster bandwidth can unlock new ways for us to tell stories, and for our readers to experience them.”

5G, when fully implemented, is poised to be a very big deal, a far bigger transformation in mobile technology than any previous generational shift. Its speed, capacity, and dramatically reduced power consumption and communications response times, or “latency,” will make possible an astonishing range of innovative new products and services.

Omar Abbosh and Larry Downes, Authors, Pivot to the Future: Discovering Value and Creating Growth in a Disrupted World

According to The Economist, “The technology will spawn an intelligent ecosystem of connected devices, harvesting massive amounts of data that will change the way we live and work. It will be incredibly fast, stable and versatile.”

Although operators are now turning their attention to 5G rollouts, and overall growth in 4G access has stalled, it hasn’t stopped them from improving their 4G networks.

Opensignal’s USA Mobile Network Experience Report July 2019, noted increases in average user 4G download speed from every major operator. All four operators (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint) surpassed 20 Mbps. AT&T led with average 4G download speeds of 24.6 Mbps.

So although full 5G deployment is still a few years away (5 years according to Abbosh and Downes) publishers can consider working with improving 4G speeds to prepare for the 5G era.

Health concerns

According to The Economist, “The transformational potential of 5G is hard to underestimate, and it’s likely it will have applications we’ve yet to even dream of.”

While there are these glorious predictions about the potential of 5G, some groups are concerned about its negative health effects. A group of over 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries have appealed to the European Union for an independent task force to reassess the health effects of 5G. 

One of the doctors, Dr. L. Hardell, Professor of Oncology at Örebro University in Sweden said, “The telecom industry is trying to roll out technology that may have very real, unintended harmful consequences.

“Scientific studies, both recently and over many years, have identified harmful effects on health when testing wireless products under realistic conditions. We are very concerned that the increase in radiation exposure by 5G leads to damage that cannot be reversed.”

However, this is a debatable topic, World Health Organization (WHO) has classified all radio frequency radiation (of which mobile signals are a part) as “possibly carcinogenic.”

This puts it in the same category of risk as pickled vegetables and talcum powder. In fact, alcoholic drinks and processed meat have been classified in a higher risk category. 

Talking to the BBC, Dr. Frank De Vocht, who advises the government on mobile phone safety said, “Although some of the research suggests a statistical possibility of increased cancer risks for heavy users, the evidence to date for a causal relation is not sufficiently convincing to suggest the need for precautionary action.”

According to David Robert Grimes, physicist, and cancer researcher, “People are understandably concerned over whether they might elevate their risk of cancer, but it’s crucial to note that radio waves are far less energetic than even the visible light we experience every day.”

There is no reputable evidence that mobile phones or wireless networks have caused us health problems.

Dr. David Robert Grimes

While the debate continues, it is likely that the 5G era is unstoppable and publishers may need to start looking at how they can harness its potential to create new products.

As Abbosh and Downes write in HBR, “The time is now to begin identifying partners, and experimenting with new forms of collaboration and co-investment.

“You need to keep improving on today’s business, while keeping a closer watch on how 5G markets emerge. That’s the only way to be ready to scale rapidly with new offerings as the unknowns dissolve over time.”

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