Do you hear the rumbling of change and hum of opportunity on the horizon?

Those are the sounds of an innovation wave gaining momentum. As it gets louder and comes closer, it sounds a lot like previous waves – the dotcom boom of the mid- to late 90s, the social media surge a decade later, and the 4G-enabled digital revolution circa 2013.

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When fully implemented, 5G will make it possible to deliver truly amazing experiences from virtually anywhere.

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Although this new innovation wave has a name – 5G – its ultimate impacts are not yet known. What we do know: This is the time to think big. Think bold. By all means, think beyond faster or cheaper versions of what you are already doing.

When fully implemented, this next generation of wireless technology will make it possible to deliver truly amazing experiences from virtually anywhere. These are the kinds of experiences most of us can’t conceive of yet – the kinds of innovation that could upend the way we live and work.

Let’s consider a couple of examples of innovative experiences that were possible even before 5G. For example, Peloton has reimagined the experience of at-home exercise. Using WiFi, Peloton customers connect in real time with expert instructors and other exercisers across the globe. From the comfort and convenience of home, they can all participate in a shared experience. Consider, too, how Pokémon Go bridged fiction and reality, physical and digital to create a killer app that engaged and entertained.

Now imagine if even more collaborative and immersive experiences could be seamlessly woven into our lives – whether we’re in our homes or traveling the world.

How could we use immersive experiences to revolutionize education and training – enabling students to literally interact with information and build skills through augmented reality?

What if we could replace video conferencing calls with business meetings conducted via virtual reality?

Now envision the ability to participate in a performance by the New York Philharmonic – not merely by listening or watching on TV but with the feeling of being in the concert hall.

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First-wave 5G applications are likely to be these kinds of “faster horse” innovations. The second wave will bring more disruptive, industry line–blurring 5G applications. The third wave will create entirely new paradigms.

One of the best illustrations is the realm of surgery.

You probably know the fundamental process of undergoing an operation at a hospital. A “faster horse” approach could see a patient coming to a hospital to be operated on by a robot that a surgeon controls remotely, with 5G guaranteeing the low latency necessary for this approach.

As innovation advances, it could become possible to drop a surgical robot into a battlefield (or anywhere else, for that matter). The role of the surgeon begins to shift from controlling entity to critical link in a value chain. Eventually there could be mass production of surgical robots with semi-autonomous procedures.

Ultimately, 5G could lead to a dramatically diminished role for hospitals. Rather than being essential focal points of care delivery, they could become optional resources as virtual care networks meet patients’ needs with greater mobility, flexibility and efficiency.

Now that I’ve encouraged you to unleash your imagination, I would like to make an important point about some practical considerations. 5G connectivity will not immediately be available to everyone everywhere. When developing amazing, 5G-powered experiences, organizations must also consider and design for this reality.

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Rather than abandoning the full range of possibilities, think in terms of “tiered” experiences. Consumers and other users get frustrated when an actual experience doesn’t live up to what was promised. But if marketing and communications messages are clear about what to expect with connected via 5G versus 4G, people will be more likely to take those adjustments in stride.

Innovation waves felt fast a decade ago when 4G arrived. Those could feel sluggish in comparison to what 5G will bring. So, don’t wait to get started – start thinking big today.

See more on Customer, Sales and Service

Edwin Van der Ouderaa

Senior Managing Director – Customer, Sales & Service, Europe

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