The next Internet battleground isn’t between Comcast and its competitors. The next Internet battleground is between the land line and 5G wireless. In some countries such as China, Korea, and a few nations in the EU, 5G projects are already underway; expect them to slowly trickle down to more primitive wireless countries like the United States in the next 5-10 years.
Here’s why this is a battleground of note: right now in many suburban and urban households, 3G wireless is generally available. 4G/LTE is available in many cities. 4G offers theoretical maximum speeds of 75 Mbps, with real speeds about 25% of that. That’s as fast as many Internet Service Providers offer via cable or DSL.
What does this mean? At some point, the notion of a “home wireless network” and “mobile wireless” will be a purely artificial division. When speeds of 10 Gbps become available broadly (and they will in other nations that are not the United States, so if you want to be cutting edge, move to China, Japan, or Korea), the Internet will simply be wherever you are.
For us marketers, that means that rich media, rich app experiences, video, and everything we associate with the high speed, large pipe Internet (read: what you don’t do on the road) will be generally available, all the time. The difference between this and previous prognostications is that the wireless community has a target date set for widespread availability of 5G: 2020. Within the next 6 years, we should expect at least major urban areas in Europe and Asia to have 10 Gbps in the air, on every device. The United States might have 4G generally available then, as 3G is available now in most areas.
As a marketer, what will you do with the consumer that has Internet in their pocket fast enough to download an entire season of House of Cards in under 10 seconds? Think about this for a second: if you don’t have video in your marketing plan as a core part of what you do (not an add-on), really great video worth watching for its own sake, then you will get your pants handed to you by your competitors.
The battle in the long term won’t be about net neutrality (though that is a great concern). The battle will be land line vs. over the air, and if the existing mobile landscape is any indication, the days of a pile of wires in your living room or basement are numbered. As marketers, we need to get our skills in shape as soon as possible. Want a head start? Pick up Steve Garfield’s excellent book, Get Seen.
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