02 June 2016
Interview with Alejandro Plater, CEO & COO at Telekom Austria Group
Self-driving cars, Internet of Things or Industry 4.0. could all become part of our daily lives thanks to the arrival of 5G. But what does it mean for publishers and for the news industry? First, "it will bring real-time latency down to 1 millisecond", explains Alejandro Plater, CEO & COO of Telekom Austria Group. "I’m optimistic that by reducing loading times the technology will also improve the mobile user experience within the distribution channels of the media industry."
Alejandro will talk about "How 5G Will Transform Media Consumption" at the upcoming GEN Summit in Vienna on 16 June. In this interview he gives us a little preview of his talk and what he forsees for the media industry: "In 2020 we will already have 500 million machine-to-machine connections. Imagine the impact of mobile, combine it with the second screen trend and multiply it by 100. Then we maybe have an idea of what this will mean for media."
The term 5G has been buzzing for a while now. When will it be available? What are its immediate potential applications?
Our industry is currently elaborating the vast opportunities which 5G technology enables for businesses as well as consumers. Self-driving cars, the Internet of Things or Industry 4.0 are on the top of the list. From a technical perspective we are still in the labs. Telekom Austria Group already had successful field trials together with Nokia though. The European Commission wants us to start roll-out in 2018, but 2020 is more realistic and mass market adoption will take even longer. Until then we will significantly speed up 4G and existing fixed net lines.
The technology 5G is usually associated with speed. Can it naturally solve the problem of mobile web, maybe even make Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles obsolete?
5G will not just push bandwidths up to 10 gigabytes per second. Even more important is that it will bring real-time latency down to 1 millisecond. Thus 5G can be considered as a precondition for autonomous vehicles being part of everyday traffic and will allow tens of thousands of objects to move within the Internet of Things. Traffic will get much safer and productivity will improve drastically. I’m optimistic that by reducing loading times the technology will also improve the mobile user experience within the distribution channels of the media industry. It is too early though, to tell if it will make AMP or Instant Articles obsolete. Concerning loading times your products will be more competitive. Still, publishers have to find ways of benefitting from Google´s or Facebook´s ecosystems.
Speed and more data make me think about video: 360, VR and live. Do you think that demand and consequently the production of video will increase, once 5G is a reality for our mobile devices?
We already see that video is dominating data traffic and this trend will definitely intensify. Higher resolutions like 4K already drive our existing mobile infrastructure to its limits and the UX suffers, not to mention VR livestreams. The question is on the demand side, but that’s a matter of time. 5G will help to close the gap.
Can 5G make live video the main media for broadcasting news? How should publishers prepare?
Periscope, messengers services and social networks in general lead the way in communicating live. They somehow democratised live broadcasting. When it comes to 5G and live broadcasting, I mainly see impact on the tools we will use and the quality of images and sound. It will also enable new ways to consume media, be it Augmented Reality news content in your self-driving car or Lightfield Cameras streaming your football game live in VR.
Can the opportunity to easily create and share video allow citizens and to become live broadcasters, limiting the role of journalists and publishers as mediators?
I’m a big fan of User Generated Content [UGC]; still I can see a big difference in quality compared to professional output of journalists. I think the question is not either/or, but how they can give added value to each other and cooperate. We already see more and more UGC being integrated in traditional media. I think that quality will stay the main differentiator, not only in the meaning of trustworthy information but production quality. Professional media have to produce at a level which a casual user is not able to achieve. Like all our industries, you need to invest in training and new skills for your staff.
With 5G many more devices will be able to be connected at the same time. What will this mean?
In the end not just more things but everything will be connected, that’s the core of digitalisation. The internet as we know it will disappear. We will not access the internet any longer as it will be present everywhere and anytime. Only those companies which understand this and adapt their business models will succeed. 5G is an important milestone on the way to this “universal network”.
This could also give a boost to the Internet of Things. How can media turn this into an opportunity, maybe taking advantage of connected devices and IoT for their reporting?
Of course they can. In 2020 we will already have 500 million machine-to-machine connections. Imagine the impact of mobile, combine it with the second screen trend and multiply it by 100. Then we maybe have an idea of what this will mean for media. I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this topic during the GEN Summit and have fruitful discussions. Our industries should cooperate much more than we do now.
Will telecommunication companies and publishers be able to work together or will there still be a need for platforms to act as intermediaries? Do you see partnerships between publishers and telecom companies becoming more common? How can they work?
I’m not sure if we can call platforms intermediaries. Do platforms connect people or businesses or are they just tools? The intermediary is connectivity or the internet itself. Platforms that try to get an internet within "the Internet” and aim at controlling the game, are a touch exclusive. Their algorithms filter information and create black boxes. Services by competitors simply aren’t available. The way platforms regulate themselves is not transparent and a level playing field is impossible. Operators and publishers would have the power to bring changes for the better, but we always end up in discussions on net-neutrality. So we need to understand each other better and identify ways of cooperating.
Who is better equipped to gain more from the arrival of 5G, platforms or publishers?
5G will create new ecosystems and it is not clear yet who will dominate them. Maybe there is room for both our industries to learn lessons from the past. Last but not least we have disruption as a common denominator. I think that 5G guided by other technologies will open new markets for publishers — just as the artificial intelligence of IBM’s Watson is about to disrupt the legal world and at the same time probably already creating new business areas.
What advice would you give to publishers to prepare themselves for the 5G?
Invest in new skills, don’t give up your own distribution channels and act earlier than you did in the smartphone era. And of course start talking to the telecoms industry.
Alejandro Plater will speak at the sixth annual GEN Summit in Vienna, Austria on 16 June. Tom Kent from The Associated Press will dialogue with him in a panel about "Always Faster: How 5G Will Transform Media Consumption" Register here.