5G is on the horizon. James Morgan, founder of Event Tech Lab, looks into whether it could really change the face of exhibitions.
5G is set to revolutionise show experiences for exhibitors and visitors. Connections that are faster and more powerful will lead to advances in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). And this dream is possible in the very near future. But this all depends on the updating of information and hardware infrastructures.
Countries like China and the US are way ahead in making the dream a reality, while in other countries we see politics, infrastructure under-investment and an understating of what 5G can deliver as barriers to change.
What does 5G offer?
The internet connection on your phone is likely to overtake your home broadband speed by quite a margin. According to Laurie Lutz from the Consumer Technology Association, organiser of CES, 5G networks will be 100 times faster and five times more responsive than today. Mark Hanley of US-based Smart City Networks says 5G promises to provide lower latency, and the ability to connect many devices at once. So, we have speed, networks that process high volumes of data with minimal delay and nearly unlimited connectivity. But how does this impact venues, exhibitors and visitors?
5G and venues
The Los Angles Convention Centre was the first US exhibition facility to install a 5G Wi-Fi network. This is an internal network, not one from a mobile signal tower. To take advantage of mobile tower 5G, John Hanley advocates adding a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at large venues to assure 100 per cent connectivity. That means a venue won’t need to install a 5G Wi-Fi system. Ward Van Ooteghem of Citymesh in Belgium has a different take.
When 5G networks will be deployed by the mobile operators, venues will benefit because of the added wireless capacity for their visitors, solving the issue of over-demand on internal Wi-Fi by smartphone users. This will result in a better overall performance of the venue’s Wi-Fi for the exhibitors or other mission-critical use cases that need it.
5G will impact exhibitors
Ward says that the introduction of 5G networks will help solve the issue of over-demand by smartphone users. This is good news for exhibitors who rely on using the internet to demonstrate and sell their services and products at shows. Imagine a booth with a plethora of internet-connected devices being able to operate with increased bandwidth and speed, without the need for traditional wired connections. 5G will allow for video-centric applications, that require a large amount of bandwidth. VR would be a seamless experience. This means that real-time interactivity will probably be the most visible new application that is enabled by 5G.
Is 5G good for visitors?
Stephan Forseilles of Easyfairs thinks that 5G will comfort his organisation in their decision not to have as many native mobile apps. With the speed and lower latency of 5G connectivity, mobile-first web sites will become the norm. No need for single-use native app downloads that take up memory space on mobile devices. But who has a 5G device? When AT&T switched on their 5G network in December 2018, there were no phones that could take advantage of 5G connectivity. Visitors will need a 5G device.
The expansion of the functionality is dependant on the speed of 5G device adoption. Finally, Christian Ary of Rabbit Technologies offers a cautionary note. Delivering seamless 5G connectivity on a large geographic scale when as a sizeable geography is still without 4G is going to take both political will and government partnerships with the private sector to invest in delivering the 5G dream, globally.