'G' I’m Confused: Campy 5G vs. 10G messaging confuses consumers — Greenblatt

Industry Voices - Greenblatt

As the competing wireless, cable and telco network service providers (NSPs) strive to establish differentiation in an increasingly competitive and multi-modal environment, the market has seen advertising campaigns pit the 5G standard against 10G broadband access technology. This may set NSPs up for long-term failure, as consumers struggle to understand why two completely different categories of services are compared and contrasted as competing offerings. 

Terrestrial and wireless organizations originally presented 5G and 10G as competing technologies in a tongue-in-cheek manner when 10G emerged in late 2019 by asking: “Who needs 5G when we have 10G?” 

The problem is that this is more of a trick question than a rhetorical one. 5G, or fifth-generation wireless, refers to the latest generation of mobile technology for operating cellular devices, enabling greater speed and lower latency while allowing more devices on the network to support new business models and a better user experience. 

In contrast, 10G refers to the internet speed — 10 gigabits-per-second — that a network service provider can deliver to the home. Despite having a “G” in common, the technologies have little to do with each other and presenting them as competing solutions is a terrific example of how pressure to establish product differentiation can lead to confusion and unsatisfying customer experiences.

The reason has to do with expectations. 

When consumers are confused about what a technology-based service is supposed to deliver, it complicates their expectations. This can impede NSPs' ability to establish and meet customer satisfaction objectives.


In this sense, competitive marketing around 5G and 10G is counterproductive. It introduces irrelevant issues that do not contribute to consumers’ better understanding of either technology. As it is, many questions about both technologies remain unanswered in the minds of consumers. 

There are multiple flavors of 5G, for instance, that provide different levels of service. It is far from clear to consumers, in many markets, what exactly is available when 5G services are announced.

There is no shortage of confusion on the 10G front either. Despite breathless advertising about ultra-broadband services, few homes have access to multi-gigabit broadband with any sort of regularity today. While this should change over the next year and a half, expectations for 10G performance are being set well before consumers are in a position to benefit from this capability.

It would behoove both sides of the industry to clear up confusion around their technologies before pitting their services against each other. But this raises yet an even more important question: Why?

Collaboration > Conflict

Beyond the fact that we are comparing technical apples to oranges, market dynamics and technological developments are creating a convergence in which these services will need each other to meet future demand.

While it is true that wired and wireless networks have traditionally operated in siloed environments, these technologies are becoming more intertwined. Providers of 5G services already depend on high-speed fiber technology to backhaul traffic captured by cellular towers to the core network and cloud resources. And as cable and fiber providers race to serve new communities, they might turn to 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technologies to meet the needs of connected home consumers.

As terrestrial operators work to optimize their current networks, we also see the convergence of 5G and 10G offerings to provide network redundancy and improve performance. 5G customer premise equipment (CPE) can be used as a backup if a construction crew inadvertently cuts a fiber cable in the neighborhood. Indeed, the two technologies can be mixed and matched to load-balance traffic to improve throughput. 

It is inarguably clear to many in the industry that truly seamless connectivity will require multiple technologies to work together. This is yet another reason why positioning 5G against 10G is counterproductive and confusing.

Organizations should avoid creating false competition across technologies that have little to do with each other. Instead, the industry — and consumers — would benefit from conversations about the functionality enabled by each one to enhance consumer experiences. It could lay the foundation for preparing the market for hybrid 5G/10G solutions, which will soon be available. However, adoption will only occur when consumers understand and accept the joint value proposition, and are in-cycle to replace CPE.

It makes little sense to position these technologies against each other when an integrated approach will likely drive opportunities to significantly improve consumer experiences as new -- profitable -- services are deployed through the rest of the decade.

Ian Greenblatt leads J.D. Power’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Intelligence. With in-depth industry expertise, Ian drives market strategy across the rapidly converging landscape, which encompasses the entire communication sector. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and DePaul University College of Law. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GreenblattTMT.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceWireless staff. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of FierceWireless.