Verizon’s wireless chief on 5G use cases: retail, manufacturing, gaming and more

The chief executive of Verizon’s wireless business offered a few insights into the company’s 5G strategy by diving into some of the specific use cases the company hopes to enable through the deployment of the next generation of wireless network technology.

First, during his appearance at an investor event this morning, Verizon’s Ronan Dunne explained that the wireless industry’s previous network generations—specifically 3G and 4G—were mostly about freeing customers from a wired connection.

"Over the past couple of generations of our technology, we have persuaded people that unplugging from the wall is a reliable and consistent experience,” Dunne said. “What we've really done is mobilize what we used to do anyway.”

But with 5G, Dunne said that personalization is the real “game changer” and can enable new services.

“Increasingly I will be able to deliver a network for a one-to-one relationship,” he said. “So, we'll actually be able to deliver an experience on the network that is defined around the specific user needs of the customer at that time.”

Verizon’s first widely discussed use case for 5G will be fixed wireless, wherein the company will beam 1 Gbps connections into users’ homes and offices. Verizon will launch that offering in four markets later this year. But Dunne described that service as just “the first opportunity” and said that that “quickly we will move to the overall 5G mobility play” in 2019.

As Verizon builds out its 5G services, Dunne said the company will be able to offer several key services, including a 10x improvement on battery life for IoT applications, low latency and the ability to offer “burst speeds” 100 times faster than what people are used to.

“I think about the fact that you can dimensionalize those elements and deliver them uniquely to a customer and to an application,” he said.

And Dunne offered some specific 5G use cases that might leverage some of those features:

  • Retail: "Think in a real-time enterprise environment for retail, where you can deliver both quality of insight and information about your customers that you might have previously only assumed that an online retailer can have, in real time in a physical retail environment,” Dunne said, explaining that retailers could also offer augmented and virtual reality offerings through 5G.
  • Healthcare: Dunne said healthcare providers could use advanced network services to provide better and more effective long-term patient monitoring.
  • Gaming: “Things like gaming will be really, really interesting,” Dunne said, noting that lower latency will be key for the sector. "That's probably where you get this extra level in your game that only Verizon's 5G customers are able to access with the extra capability there."

    Added Dunne: “Clearly in the gaming world its the latency ... Getting your retaliation in first in a gaming app is all that matters."
  • Stock trading: Dunne said that Verizon could “deliver a trading experience on your mobile, in conjunction with Yahoo, that is best-in-class and perhaps even your ability to trade nanoseconds faster than somebody who is on a wired service.”
  • Smart cities: Dunne mentioned services like real-time facial recognition, traffic management and potentially autonomous vehicles as services enabled by an advanced, 5G network. He noted that such technology could improve the reaction time of autonomous vehicles significantly: For example, a car traveling 60 miles an hour could respond to an accident within the time it travels four inches rather than four feet on a 4G connection. “That sort of helps to give you a sense of how important that latency is,” he said.
  • Stadium experiences: 5G connections in locations like a stadium could provide new, real-time experiences to sports fans or concert goers, Dunne said.
  • Precision manufacturing: Dunne said 5G could aid in industries like manufacturing, which is an area that other companies have also discussed.

“Will the enterprise appetite to spend more to use these futuristic use cases exist when 5G networks become a reality? Will devices to support these applications be in place once those networks are ready? Will businesses finally see wireless as a valid replacement for wireline broadband? And lastly, will operators be able to offer all these futuristic services profitably? Unfortunately, only time will tell," said Kathryn Weldon, technology research director at research firm GlobalData, in a statement.