Will Video Streaming be the Initial Killer App for Verizon 5G?

Verizon has reconfirmed what it said in September 2015 about launching commercial 5G  (technically, pre-5G) service in the United States in 2017.

It seems likely that the initial use case will be mobile entertainment video, given Verizon’s belief that mobile video is the way it can win in the post-linear video entertainment business, its launch of go90, its new mobile streaming service, the acquisition of AOL and likely additional moves.

Using 5G to support mobile streaming makes sense in a targeted sense will make sense. Many would argue that 4G was different than 3G primarily because 4G made mobile streaming feasible, and an enjoyable experience,  for the first time.

Eventually, Internet of Things is expected to be the biggest likely important new app category enabled by 5G. But most consumers are going to encounter the clearest use case in streaming video.

A Verizon executive had said in September that  Verizon will begin field trials of 5G technology within the next year, with plans for start of commercial service, in some form, in 2017.

If you recall the introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G, you remember that the first emphasis was on mobile data access, not phones, simply because suppliers had not yet produced LTE phones in mass quantities, and one initial early adopter segment were users who wanted much-faster access for their personal computers.

Since it is highly possible the full set of 5G standards will not be fully ratified by 2017, Verizon might be in a pre-5G mode, operating a commercial service that will appeal most to some user segments whose business cases are insensitive to use of a “pre-standard” but largely compliant deployment scenario. Video delivery is one such case.

Rapid adoption of what it believes to be a superior technology platform is very much part of Verizon’s understanding of its position in the U.S. market, and its basic strategy, which is to lead in the area of platforms and platform-based quality.

Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect for Verizon, earlier had said he  expects "some level of commercial deployment" to begin by 2017”. That's far earlier than the time frame of 2020 that many in the industry have pegged for the initial adoption of 5G technology. But the video streaming angle fits with that earlier comment.

Other mobile providers also have said they will launch commercial service as well.

South Korea hopes its wireless carriers can deploy a trial 5G network in 2018, in time for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Japan hopes to have a 5G network running in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Chinese government, meanwhile, has also pushed for the aggressive deployment of 5G technology.

If you use the rule of thumb that the mobile industry introduces a next generation network about every decade, that would suggest 2020 is the point at which Verizon would want to deploy 5G, nationwide, as it deployed 4G in 2010.  So 2017 might be an even-faster introduction than is typical.

“I showed my board the service in November,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO. “You don’t ever go to a board with something that’s not real.”
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