5G mobile technology is about to transform the way people use their smartphones and, in turn, how hotels are run and what they offer. In the future, smartphones won’t be the only things requiring 24/7 data connectivity. New innovations like autonomous cars, smart homes (and hotels), the Internet of Things and others will rely on wireless networks, requiring advanced connectivity solutions such as 5G.
“5G, or fifth generation, technology represents a transformational leap in performance over today’s 4G networks,” said Michele Dupre, group VP at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “Once fully deployed, it will provide users with super-fast speeds, massive bandwidth or capacity and lower latency than today’s 4G networks. 5G service latency could eventually be less than 10 milliseconds—many times faster than the blink of an eye.”
Latency is a combination of time required to send data across a distance and the processing time required at each end, and these low-latency services are the most important aspect of 5G, Enseo CEO and founder Vanessa Ogle said. “There will be an increased opportunity with low latency for virtual reality and other augmented technology,” she said.
In addition to revolutionizing guestroom entertainment with low latency, the unique capabilities of 5G could unleash new possibilities in terms of what types of services and applications a hotel might offer.
“Imagine guests being greeted in their own native language with digital signage or other communications instantaneously wherever they are on property,” Ogle asked. “With no-latency communication, it’s possible.”
Beyond a basic touchscreen kiosk, companies like New Zealand-based Soul Machines are creating digital assistants that, if combined with 5G and artificial intelligence, could understand people’s requests and read and respond to their emotions and body language, Dupre said: “Imagine a digital kiosk equipped with an artificial concierge who can direct you where to go for dinner and sympathize with you after a frustrating travel experience.”
With all of the moving parts and people associated with the hotel industry, Internet of Things sensors and applications could dramatically help hotels become smarter and more automated, and 5G would make them that much easier to operate. “Much in the way homes are becoming smarter and more automated, so, too, will hotel rooms,” Dupre said. “IoT sensors could monitor every aspect of the guest experience, from temperature, to lighting, to plumbing—even the ability to know exactly what time roomservice food arrived.”
5G will place computing and storage resources at the network edge, unlocking time-sensitive IoT applications and visual cloud services such as media processing, immersive content and gaming. The 5G data centers will enable the hosting of enterprise AI and immersive media applications.
“For the hospitality vertical, there are a number of potentially relevant AI and immersive media applications,” said Dayna Kully, co-founder of 5thGenWireless. “The higher data capacity, faster data rates and enhanced broadcast/multicast features will realize the media vision for a seamless mobile TV experience, such as broadcast services, on-demand and live TV and mobile TV.”
Another big impact item on hotels with 5G is the ability to have distributed cloud applications. This means the property-management system or other cloud-based hotel application can be close to the data, allowing for faster speeds and cleaner design, according to Cathy Zatloukal, the other co-founder of 5thGenWireless.
While 5G can provide better network performance and new applications and services for guests, hotels also can create a new revenue source for hotels. 5G can give companies a virtual wireless private network no matter where they are located, thus creating the new remote office network of the future, Ogle said. “This can give new daytime activities for hotels: using previously unused spaces during the hours when a lot of spaces are unused,” she continued.
There are challenges that hotels will need to overcome when 5G becomes commonplace in a few years. Hotels are struggling to find basic Wi-Fi capabilities, so preparing for the future can be expensive, Ogle said.
“The technology required for 5G density and coverage doesn’t have strong penetration ability to penetrate through buildings and the walls,” she continued.
There will need to be a dramatic amount for investment for 5G infrastructure in hotels, Ogle warned. 5G requires fiber internet connections, which are costly to install and maintain. Ogle suggested finding a great consultant that truly understands 5G because what is needed today won’t be the same in five years. Hotels should think carefully about spending any traditional network infrastructure in their hotels today.
“As they postpone the investment, they can save their budget and accumulate it over the next few years so they can be on the cutting edge of 5G when we all get there,” Ogle said. “Making careful decisions today will bridge the gap from a budget cycle perspective.”