4G network performance had better match 5G marketing

5G 4G hype
If this is your 5G marketing campaign, your 4G network had also better be able to deliver the goods. Image credit: Preechar Bowonkitwanchai / Shutterstock.com

5G marketing will no doubt push faster network speeds. But when there’s handover from 5G to 4G, what will be the customer experience in terms of speed? Here’s why operators must beef up 4G performance to help deliver on their 5G message.

When launching a new G, operators usually focus their marketing messages on speed. When 4G was launched, images for Formula 1 racing cars were commonplace on operators’ websites. Adverts showed people relaxing in the park watching their TV on their mobiles. The actors were always smiling. No network problems for these folks. Latency or jitter or any of the other normal 3G issues didn’t exist in this new superfast 4G world.

The problem is that, for any new G, coverage is always sporadic as the operators make the investment of rolling out the new network. There is always a time delay between reality of most customers’ experiences and the promises made by the operators in their advertising.

Is it going to be any different for 5G? I’d take a guess and say it could be worse.

When 5G is launched, and handsets are available, peoples’ expectations of super-fast mobile broadband will be increased. Massive IoT will be commonplace and all connected devices will automatically sync up and interoperate. Advertising, by its very nature, has got to paint the best scenario. It’s what makes people buy stuff.

But with 5G, operators could face a problem. We’ve already seen several operators claim world firsts with 5G, so I don’t expect too much modest advertising when operators do start to sell 5G services and handsets become available. But as can be seen from the diagram below, according to the GSMA, only 14% of global cellular connections will be 5G by 2025, with 4G accounting for 43%.

gsma 5G 4G 3G breakdown

With 5G we’ll see hybrid 4G/5G architectures – and this means there’s going to be a lot of network handover from 5G to 4G. Operators need to ensure that when the handover does happen, the quality of the user experience doesn’t take a nose dive. Users typically don’t care too much about what network they’re using. They just want the service to work as promised. If they’ve bought a 5G handset and the network quality takes a fall because they’ve just happened to wander out of an area of 5G coverage, guess who they’ll blame.

Networks co-exist. Customers go from one to the other – usually without too much of a problem. But in the case of 5G, if the difference in promised network performance is 10 times faster than 4G, then people will notice. In getting ready for 5G and co-existence with 3G and 4G networks, operators need to look at optimizing existing networks. They need to ensure that the difference between 5G and 4G network experience is minimized. People will buy 5G phones, use high-volume, high-speed data apps and services, and expect them to work as advertised when they go out of 5G coverage.

To try and deliver the best network experience, operators need to look beyond just investing in new 5G networks and optimizing what they’ve already got, in order to squeeze every last megabit per second out of existing networks.

Martin Morgan, vice president of marketing at OpenetWritten by Martin Morgan, vice president of marketing at Openet, which has a white paper on this very topic available for download here.

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