Thursday, January 03, 2019

What might we see with the next generation of mobile technology?

Everyone is excited about the possibilities of the fifth generation of mobile networks to significantly change the way that mobile "phone" control our lives. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Using a 3D hologram rather than travelling so that you can be "in the room" with work colleagues and loved ones,
  2. Voice Activated Concierge Service that you allow to read your messages, control your diary etc so that you might manage the information overflow of your daily life,
  3. Avatar based news feed that allows you to be updated about what you need/want to know when you want without having to flip across a number of services,
  4. Autonomous Cars that self report faults and arrange service appointments based on usage and your needs to "drive",
  5. Smart Homes that are capable of turning on lights, heating, running a bath, washing machines, cookers and remote access for deliveries whilst also security features using video based on real time location information from your phone and traffic flows so that you get home and find that the house is how you want it,
  6. Augmented Reality that uses the camera in your phone to overlay information for you so that you can move around a new space as if you were a local.
Whilst these are all suggestions about what we could see with 5G services they are in fact predictions that Orange made when planning for the launch of 3G nearly twenty years ago. It was the work of those who staffed the Think Tank that was called The Imaginarium it had people with titles like "ambassador of strategy" and "knowledge consul". It right predicted that Mobile Networks will be about providing life services rather than selling phone calls and that there will be no killer app for wireless.  It made some bold bets on that future, paying $137.5M to the Press Association for a digital news-feed and $137.5M for a start up speech recognition service called Wildfire. Under the ownership of France Telecom these bets did not pay off and the people who dreamt of the future left.

Today we have very few Labs within Telecoms Networks and they are not focused on Innovation as they once were. Perhaps 5G might deliver some of what we thought possible with 3G. Perhaps some of what was predicted failed because demand could not be stimulated significantly to create the market.  Perhaps the Executives who started to run Mobile Networks once 3G launched had to manage the debt in such a way that they gave away Customer Relationships to the likes of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google without getting anything in return. If 5G is to change anything it needs to change the way that infrastructure is paid for and valued.

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