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5G Will Revolutionize Digital Out of Home Advertising

21 May 2019

We've been hearing about 5G for a long time, with its promise to transform cellular technology. Currently, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are all confirmed to launch 5G in the US in the next few months - and 5G is already being offered at a smaller scale in some parts of the US. In the UK, Vodafone is launching its 5G network in July. It's a technology that is set to revolutionise how we interact with technology. But before we look at the exciting opportunities in digital ad tech, let's do a refresher:

What Is 5G?

5G stands for the fifth generation and refers to the next and newest mobile wireless standard based on the IEEE 802.11ac standard of broadband technology.

What About the Earlier Generations?

G stands for a generation of mobile communication technology which is used in mobile phones for communication. Different generations have different advances in technology. Basically, 1G was/is a voice-only phone, commensurate with those brick-like devices of the '80s. You'd be dealing with poor voice quality and that and poor battery life.

2G (aka Global system for mobile communication) denotes the transition from analogue to digital in 1991, and the introduction of call and text encryption, plus data services like SMS, picture messages, and MMS. Then there's a bit of a nexus between 2G and 3G, with the interim 2.5G and 2.75G, making it possible to access the web pages via a mobile phone. 3G was developed in 1998 and upgraded audio and video meant better voice calling quality. 3G also brought faster data-transmission speeds making video calling and mobile internet more viable. 3.5G and 3.75G bought faster data processing and reduced latency.

Now, we're at 4G. 4G is up to 10 times faster than 3G services. Sprint was the first carrier to offer 4G speeds in the U.S. beginning in 2009. While all 4G service is called 4G or 4G LTE, the underlying technology is not the same with every carrier. Some use WiMax technology for their 4G network, while Verizon Wireless uses a technology called Long Term Evolution, or LTE.

So, What's So Good About 5G?

In a nutshell, 5G technology is anticipated to be faster, with less dead zones, and end data caps on cellular contracts. The GSMA stipulates that 5G must meet most of these criteria:

One to 10Gbps connections to endpoints in the field

  • One millisecond end-to-end round-trip delay
  • 1000x bandwidth per unit area
  • 10 to 100x number of connected devices
  • (Perception of) 99.999% availability
  • (Perception of) 100% coverage
  • 90% reduction in network energy usage
  • Up to ten-year battery life for low power, machine-type devices

What Does This Mean For Me?

In short, 5G promises to facilitate seamless video streaming, faster downloads, and real-time data transfer. This year at Mobile World Congress, we saw the first remote surgery was performed live over 5G between the Congress stage and Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, with a renowned medical expert advising an in-theatre surgeon on a live operation in near real time.


In (arguably) less mission-critical scenarios, 5G means that AR and VR games will have improved image quality and play without lag. Currently, mass adoption of AR and VR has been hampered by 4Gs (up to 60-millisecond) latency.) 5G drops this latency right down to around four milliseconds. This opens AR and 5G to greater opportunities in multi-platform marketing and will have the potential to bridge the gap between in-game advertising, mobile phone ads and apps (all of which will experience faster loading time and smoother downloads), as well as digital out of home (DOOH) advertising.

The Car is the Promised Place of 5G


The car is going to feature prominently in the 5G trajectory.  Automotive companies are positioning autonomous vehicles as 'the third place' of the future', ostensibly operating as mobility-as--service where a vehicle is not simply for transport but a range of services. Imagine a car embedded with sensors that can monitor your health, connect with your own wearable tech, and share the results with your health provider, even driving you to the doctor's surgery without request? For this to happen seamlessly, we need 5G.  Cars of the future will be equipped with in-car entertainment systems playing movies, tv shows and other media options. That sensor identified high blood pressure might lead to personalised ads for blood pressure medication when you are in the car, but also offer different personalised ads for other passengers. Already, entertainment platforms have been set up to show in-car advertisements in return for free tv viewing.

Further, to have any real hope of autonomous vehicles to go mainstream, we need 5G. Every vehicle is effectively a data center on wheels, with data travelling between sensors, cameras, accelerometers, LiDAR, entertainment systems, and much more. To operate with human intervention, it needs to make split-second decisions based on incoming data. A lag in connectivity would be disastrous.

Connected car wiki 926.jpg

Vehicle data can also intersect with city infrastructure including parking spaces, traffic lights, public transport, and services such as shops and restaurants. Imagine getting data on what local restaurants are serving that night and their occupancy as you travel nearby.  It could even include menu offerings depending on the health data shared from your car. You could also receive special offers from stores and be able to make seamless payments from an in-car payment system.

All of this data will become circular in that it provides researchers, marketers and product developers with deep consumer insights into their customers, feeding back to facilitate not only product improvements but also greater personalisation of products and advertisements based on these metrics. From AR to mobile to wearables to in-vehicle and digital out of home advertising, we can expect to see more DOOH advertising campaigns in a myriad of interesting and entertaining capacities.

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