5G is coming: How will it change your events?

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Analysts predict that 5G networks will be in use by 2020, set to connect over one billion users by 2025. 5G network technology has been the subject of great excitement and debate within tech spheres and has been one of the major highlights at this year’s CES 2018 event. But as connectivity grows closer, the event industry needs to focus on how new use cases will change the way they connect with attendees.

Representing more than just a new generation of connectivity, 5G will issue in a new era in which our relationship with technology will be increasingly fluid and customized. With 4G came a more connected society with the Internet of Things (IoT), but 5G will introduce a fully mobile society. Improved connectivity provides a wide variety of opportunities for event professionals to offer attendees with a wholly immersive event experience.

What features will 5G bring?

One of the core features of 5G is speed, with some suggesting speeds up to 1,000 times faster than 4G LTE. Higher bandwidth means that mobile networks will be able to deliver live virtual reality streams from events, while enabling detailed digital information to be superimposed on live images of the physical world captured on a smartphone or head-mounted display (augmented reality). In addition to human-centric applications like AR and VR, more reliable machine-to-machine connections will make our lives safer and smarter.

Lower latency means that 5G can introduce lower battery consumption and support more devices, enhancing our use of the IoT. For event planners, the opportunity to capitalize on wearables and beacons has higher potential than ever before.

Expect more from wearables & apps

Imagine supporting your attendees through a wide range of premium event opportunities, such as pre-ordering refreshments or instantly sharing their experiences on social media. Expect your event app to get smarter at recognizing attendee locations, making proactive customized attendee experiences via highly personal recommendations a reality. Perhaps after guiding your attendee to a session based on their interests and seating them next to someone they’ve expressed interest in meeting, your event app can offer them a nearby lunch recommendation.

All 5G devices will have their own data plans with greater connectivity, meaning event planners will be generating meaningful data uninterrupted. With better wearable connectivity, event planners will leverage deeper attendee insights that allow them to continuously improve events. 

Create safer event experiences

The tragedies of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and Manchester arena bombing shook the event planning world, and security is top-of-mind for 2018 event planners. As 5G improves connectivity between event management and emergency personnel, reaction times to emergency situations will become almost instant. Planners will know the location, hazards and number of people affected in an incident, giving increased security and control. Communication possibilities with attendees will mean visitors can be instantly updated with security notifications.

Meet the first global network

As 5G improves connectivity, will individual data and roaming charges increase dramatically? Well, yes and no. Many 5G promoters are touting the new network as the end of WiFi, as 5G meets the need for connectivity that previous generations of mobile services have been unable to fill. While this is unlikely, the average network user will have access to improved global connectivity that will make roaming a thing of the past.

Set to become the first truly global network, 5G will introduce federated network slicing that enables a seamless platform sharing amongst operators at a global scale, guaranteeing seamless user experience. 5G connectivity will finally make it possible for operators to provide a global network service experience, without needing individual agreements with different operators.

Optimize event revenue potential

Current event organizers are still currently dedicating a significant portion of their budget to WiFi, or to serving attendees who are not using connected devices. With 5G all attendees will have full connectivity, meaning marketers will be able to focus on customizing meaningful content, rather than customizing content delivery systems. Because 5G networks will empower virtual reality in a way that 4G can’t, remote attendees will be able to experience conferences and events through VR content in real-time, allowing event planners to create “virtual” ticket options that maximize revenue.

Will 5G remove the need for WiFi altogether? Probably not. But with improved connectivity, event organizers will be able to focus on customizing meaningful content, rather than customizing content delivery systems. “Every new technology predicts the death of the older technology, whether it’s wireless predicting the death of ever needing wires again, or 5G predicting the death of WiFi,” says Cliff Skolnick of RightRound, providers of high-density WiFi solutions for events. “Essentially they all end up working together: as 5G gets faster, so does WiFi. We expect 5G to allow more engaging event applications, video delivery, larger coverage areas, and more. Things you can do today only with a large budget will become more accessible to all events.”

Why event professionals should plan for 5G early

While 5G networks aren’t expected to roll out until 2020, the network architecture required to support this new network is not insignificant. As we better understand how to use this technology, event technologists will roll out a fuller list of use cases for 5G and event management.