• January 10, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

2020: The 5G Revolution Begins

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After years of hype, expanded 5G mobile networks are finally here, opening a world of new opportunities not just for consumers but for the companies that want to do business with them.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile officially turned on its 5G services Dec. 2, claiming to be the first with nationwide 5G. Its 5G network, the carrier said, covers 200 million people and more than 5,000 cities and towns across the United States.

T-Mobile is not the only carrier with 5G. If they haven't already done so, the other major carriers are also expected to roll out their 5G networks in the next few months, with mass market penetration expected by the end of this year.

In its first worldwide 5G forecast, IDC predicts that the number of 5G connections will grow from roughly 10 million in 2019 to more than 1 billion in 2023, representing a compound annual growth rate of 217.2 percent. By 2023, IDC expects 5G will represent 8.9 percent of all mobile device connections.

Industry experts are already hailing 5G as a huge game-changer for marketing, sales, and customer service departments.

With 5G come huge opportunities to build enterprise value in a range of industries, profoundly affecting business operations, Strategy Analytics concluded in a new report, "5G and Its Impact on Enterprise Digital Transformation."

Gina Luk, principal analyst for mobile workforce strategies at Strategy Analytics and author of the report, says 5G is now high on the list of technologies that businesses are considering in their road maps. Companies, she says, "will embrace [5G] technology, as it will have a huge impact on productivity, mobility, and profitability."

To show just how pervasive the technology has become, 5G networks claimed the top spot in Lux Research's "20 for 20" report, an annual list of technologies and trends that are expected to transform the way we live, work, and play over the next decade.

5G, it said "has officially left the realm of research and entered reality."

"5G will not only impact the wireless service we all use, but it will spread to other areas of our lives as well," predicts Jeff Kagan, a top wireless and telecommunications industry analyst. "So many new twists on things we already do."

John Carney, senior vice president and general manager of communications and media industries at Salesforce, calls 5G "a quantum leap from today's standards," noting that download speeds will be 1,000 times faster; that latency—the time it takes to retrieve data—will fall from 50 milliseconds to less than 1 millisecond; and that network availability will increase to 99.999 percent, with dramatically broader capacity allowing devices to become connected at an unprecedented scale.

"5G will not only make wireless faster and better, but it will empower so much innovation in other industries because of its low latency," Kagan says.

Carney agrees. 5G, he says, will revolutionize the customer experience by enabling companies to get dramatically better at what they're doing today and enable use cases that don't yet exist.

"As the use cases for 5G advance, sales and customer service operations will need to evolve as well," he states.

Among the new use cases for businesses, Carney says, will be the enablement of real-time analytics, which will allow companies to optimize and tweak campaigns using artificial intelligence (AI) and marketing automation. "With 5G, we'll be able to capture, gather, and analyze data for customers, visitors, and anonymous users almost in real time. With edge computing being one of the big promises of 5G, as customers browse or show interest in products or services, their journeys can be personalized in real time," he says.

Carney further maintains that 5G will enable what is sometimes called fast data—data that is collected, retrieved, and operationalized at previously unimaginable speeds and volumes—and artificial intelligence tools that learn from this data will get substantially smarter as a result.

Once that happens, consumers will be able to walk into a retail store and find that salespeople, armed with layers of information about their behavior and preferences, can immediately create rich, tailored shopping experiences just for them.

Michael Sullivan, an analyst at Lux Research, also sees 5G having a big impact on companies' personalization efforts. "5G's transmission capabilities will strengthen personalization efforts by enabling more advanced data analytics applications that require high bandwidth for immediate processing. This will enable personalized offers and services to shift from sometime to real time," he says.


Experts agree that perhaps the greatest CRM-related innovation that 5G will enable centers on the ability to create immersive customer experiences.

5G's "higher speeds and higher bandwidth will cut the cord for virtual and augmented reality sales and marketing, and even customer support services," Sullivan says. "These services will emerge from rare stand-alone venues to ubiquitous services available to customers in their homes or anywhere."

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