NATIONAL REPORT—Is the hospitality industry ready for 5G? According to the experts, not quite yet; however, there are reasons why hoteliers may want to consider how the emerging cellular network technology is going to impact the industry for years to come.
“While 5G offers tremendous promise and excitement, it’s neither yet standardized nor widely available,” said Yvette Vincent, CTO of Delaware North. “5G standards are still evolving and capabilities are rolling out to select cities. 5G capabilities need to be added to devices and buildings, and applications need to be built to take advantage of these capabilities.”
5G isn’t a step above 4G—it’s a giant leap forward. “Think of 5G as a collection of technologies, rather than one new thing,” she said. “5G is a completely different architecture. It is not just mobile. It is not just another G. The frequencies used for 5G have more difficulty penetrating buildings and travel shorter distances. 5G is faster than LTE due to a larger spectrum allocation per channel per carrier and radio technology advancements.”
How much faster is 5G than 4G exactly? “4G LTE has a peak speed of 1GB per second,” Vincent said. “5G is able to achieve peak speeds of 20GB per second. Actual everyday speeds are dependent on several factors, such as location, device and motion, and are more likely to be 10MB per second for 4G compared to 100MB per second on 5G. These numbers still represent a 10-20x speed improvement from 4G to 5G.”
Simply put, with 5G, there are improvements in speed, capacity and latency. “That leap will have tremendous implications to what services and applications can be connected and how many people and things can be connected,” said Michele Dupre, group VP at Verizon Business Group.
While 5G has made its way into mainstream discourse, the hospitality industry—like many other markets—hasn’t fully incorporated the technology into its strategy, but there’s a reason for this.
“5G is not yet available in most locations, so hoteliers are very interested to know how the new capabilities will help them provide better guest and associate experiences, and what will be the impact to infrastructure, architecture and support,” Vincent said.
Even though 5G hasn’t really had a direct impact on the hospitality industry yet, being aware of how the enhanced cellular network technology is going to impact the future of the market can assist hoteliers with making game-changing decisions down the road.
“The emergence of 5G and other next-generation technologies like mobile edge computing should have hotels thinking about how potential applications could fit into their customer experience roadmap,” Dupre said. “We have been approached by a number of businesses looking to understand that very question. However, not unlike previous advancements in wireless technology, many innovations that could be born out of 5G haven’t yet been imagined.”
Once it becomes more readily available, 5G has the potential to redefine the guest experience by escalating the adoption of technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence and data analysis.
“Besides faster and more reliable internet access, 5G’s low latency combined with edge computing opens up a world of opportunity where IoT devices, robotics and data analysis can interact with humans to create new personalized experiences,” Vincent said. “Since IoT devices can generate massive amounts of data, the speed and low latency of 5G is necessary to enable real-time collaboration between people and devices, and between devices. This allows service automation and personalized options in real time based on sensor feedback and preferences, such as customer-specific messaging, offers, real-time wayfinding and enabling augmented reality, virtual reality and autonomous driving applications.”
5G can improve real-time collaboration for meetings by enabling “new ways to interact with attendees, speakers and content, such as real-time language conversion during streamed meetings from a selected camera angle for remote attendees,” Vincent said.
“To take one specific example, 5G will enable far more IoT sensors to be connected to the network,” Dupre said. “When you think about all of the moving parts and people associated with the hotel industry, IoT applications could dramatically help hotels become smarter and more automated, much in the way homes are becoming smarter and more automated. IoT sensors could monitor every aspect of the guest experience, from temperature, to light, to plumbing—even the ability to know exactly what time room service arrived.”
Despite 5G gaining traction, 4G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “People should expect 4G to be around for a long time,” Dupre said. “Verizon has invested heavily in its 4G LTE network; it will continue to serve as our foundation wireless network nationwide.”
“As we build out our 5G Ultra Wideband service, it will unlock many unmet needs and emerging use cases that would not be possible or practical over a 4G LTE network,” she said. “We’re excited about the major long-term impacts 5G could have for people, businesses and society as a whole.”
Delaware North is doing its due diligence to better prepare for a future with 5G. “Delaware North is the strategic advisor to the Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) Modernizing Infrastructure Pillar to maintain a leadership position and promote hospitality interests with our providers,” Vincent said. “This pillar is in pre-charter stage to add a 5G workgroup, which will assist hoteliers with understanding potential use cases, how 5G can enable IoT, the role of edge computing and how higher speed, lower latency and a new infrastructure architecture will affect hotel connectivity.”
Without a doubt, implementing 5G is going to require some major changes.
“There are few times in history when technology takes a leap in performance like we’ll see with 5G,” Dupre said. “There are certain long-held assumptions about the absolute limits of wireless technology. I think we’ll see 5G technology become a game-changer when it comes to the art of the possible. For the hotel industry, it means rethinking everything it does and examining how 5G and the applications it will power could fundamentally reshape the way they do business.” HB