The Twenty-Twenty Information Society: How 5G Will Change Retail

Photo credit: Ryan Fung on Flickr.


“The 2G networks were designed for voice, 3G for voice and data, and 4G for broadband internet experiences. With 5G, we’ll see computing capabilities getting fused with communications.’’ – Asha Keddy, General Manager of Mobile Standards for Advance Tech, Intel


We may only just be getting used to 2012’s new mobile network, 4G, but plans are already underway to develop 5G – the fifth generation of mobile communication – which is set to debut in the early 2020s.  And, with an estimated 100 billion online devices in circulation, with many used for the data demands of online gaming and video streaming, the shift can’t come soon enough.

It’s been more than 3 decades since 1G was invented by Nordic Mobile, and now focus has shifted to the UK – with millions spent on building a 5G ‘Innovation Centre’ at Surrey University.

It’s still up for debate as to what 5G will fully entail, but consumers can at least expect the obvious lower battery consumption, better coverage, and faster data access speeds. In a speech at the CeBIT trade show in Germany, PM David Cameron announced that 5G speeds can download entire films in a second – and the team at Surrey guess that this could be as many as 800 at a time. It may seem far-fetched, but Samsung has already managed speeds of 1GB/second, which puts paid to our current lifestyle of loading screens and general lag.

But, with progress comes pitfalls – though nothing that a decade’s worth of technological advances shouldn’t be able to handle. 5G needs entirely new devices to run on, and it’s not certain what its capabilities will mean for things like battery size and antennae.  Having a connected mentality, too, could be an issue for small devices, which will need to be able to cope with running rich content – though it’s hoped that the network will be able to handle any needed processing.

As ever, we’re processing what this means for the world of retail. Given the rate at which technology evolves, the retail landscape could dramatically change in just ten short years (in fact, we may even blog about it). But, based on what we already know, here are some of our predictions:

1. Every store will have WiFi

It’s already happening – and it’s a tool that puts complete control on the customer, letting them browse websites of any stores they want (not just the one they’re in). It also lets them order what they want, when they want it, with (or without) the guidance of a shop assistant.

2. We’ll have fully-embraced wearable tech and the Internet Of Things

In fact, we’re already seeing the signs of these in our everyday lives – like zoomable contact lenses and fridges that rotate stock for you. 5G will just be the springboard needed to fully roll out the changes.

3. The way we use media will change forever

We’ll be consuming even more data than ever, making it even more disposable. What does that mean for the entertainment industry?

After much thought, it seems that one body involved in 5G – who are running an EU Commission-funded project aiming to ‘pave the way’ for standardising mobile and wireless communications  – weren’t far off when they labelled said project ‘(the) Mobile and wireless communicators Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society’.