Ask people what 5G is all about and most will answer that “It’s just going to speed up my phone a bit isn’t it?”. And to be fair, that’s all that most smartphone users have experienced as we’ve moved from one mobile network G (Generation) to the next over the past 20 years. But my understanding is that 5G promises a much more noticeable leap in the user experience with mobile data speeds more than 20 times faster than 4G and almost no time delay (known as latency) between sending and receiving data. 5G will also allow for large numbers of devices to connect to one another in real time. This will unleash the potential for augmented and virtual reality and real-time connectivity between people, objects and characters without any time lag.
So what exactly could 5G do for the tourist industry? This is the question that we at Bristol Futures Global (BFG) are exploring together with Destination Bristol and Digital Catapult over the next few months. Our project – an extension to the DCMS / West of England Combined Authority 5G Smart Tourism pilot – is setting out to understand current attitudes and practices of tourism providers towards digital connectivity and then explore the opportunities – and potential barriers – for 5G to enhance the tourism offer at a range of destinations and venues. We are particularly interested in researching how 5G might make places more accessible and welcoming to disabled people.
This is a new role for me and, to be honest, a steep learning curve as I am neither a tourism nor a digital expert. But what I do understand is that 5G differs from the previous generations in that it will need to be delivered in new and innovative partnerships between cities and regions and sectors including tourism, high tech and creative industry and network providers. So what I can bring to this project is many years of experience – most recently as Bristol’s Strategic Resilience Officer – building strong, open and dynamic partnerships across sectors and disciplines to help catalyse complex change at a city scale.
I’m particularly excited to be building on the unique BBC 5G mobile 360 degree video trial held at the Roman Baths in Bath and to be learning from other pioneer cities such as Turin which through project MoNArch, is testing 5G at its ancient Palazzo Madama museum. Closer to home in the West of England we will be continuing to work with major tourist destinations such as We The Curious and M-Shed as well as the Roman Baths to explore the potential of 5G. And we will be looking for more small and large businesses to get involved in the research.
The first task in this project is to carry out an online survey of tourism providers to get a snap-shot of the ways that 4G digital connectivity is currently being used, how the advent of 5G is being perceived and what opportunities and possible pitfall lie ahead. We will be launching the survey at the end of May so look out for a link in our next blog…
Bristol Futures Global (BFG)