Roger Nichols

Pokémon GO Foreshadows the Real Killer Apps in Our 5G Future

Blog Post created by Roger Nichols Employee on Sep 21, 2016

I recall detailed conversations during the 2G-to-3G and 3G-to-4G transitions about the elusive “killer app” that would drive the ROI for a better mobile phone system. Our transition to 5G technology is no different, and while the term killer app does not pervade the vernacular like it once did, the concept lives on. And it lives on in an environment of significant doubt. Even comments on my first post indicate significant skepticism about the justification of such a large technical push: “Why would anyone ever need <insert your favorite 5G KPI here>[i] on their mobile phone?”


Perhaps the most skeptical are my own family, who are often subjected to dry runs of my 5G presentations. On July 25, however, I had the good fortune to receive a very telling, if not somewhat flippant, email from my engineering-grad-student daughter (nope, not electrical engineering). I present an insightful excerpt:


Hi Daddy!


In the past two weeks, Pokémon GO has netted at least $35 million in revenue. While I haven't been able to find any analyses of how much total  mobile data it has used, most online sources agree that one person spends about 20 MB of mobile data per hour of gameplay. This number is reduced significantly if you're in a Wi-Fi-rich area (e.g., on a college campus), and can be increased significantly if you use other data-chewing apps at the same time while you wait for the Pokémon GO servers to come back up.


Also, I have tried the game, and it is ridiculously fun, especially when half your lab group decides to walk to lunch and catch Pokémon together. For a smartphone game, it can be surprisingly social. Also, extremely nerdy. But we're Ph.D. students, so that ship sailed ages ago.


If 5G wireless can make my Pokémon hunting and battling more efficient and reliable, I'd be pretty happy. It is rife with possibility for showing off 5G capabilities. Now, I don't know much about these capabilities aside from what I've learned from you making me sit through the dry runs of your keynote talks, but in case you get stuck presenting the need for 5G to a room full of people my age, you could consider arguing the merits of Keysight's test equipment solutions on the basis of:


  • faster communication with the app's servers, so that the millions of users playing the game can crash them that much more effectively
  • more accurate location services inside buildings and outside, so that the game populates the area around a player with Pokémon more quickly
  • device-to-device communications, enabling live Pokémon battles or trades between users
  • working well in a crowd, so that when someone is caught up in a mass of hundreds of people all trying to catch the same **** Vaporeon, nobody gets trampled and (more importantly) nobody's connection slows down or drops


I argue that this millennial—raised on a certain video game, television, and trading-card phenomenon—has highlighted key indicators in least one market segment of what 5G needs to address. The Pokémon GO phenomenon hardly requires 5G technology to drive the faddish behavior that created massive financial ecosystems around smartphones. But my lovely daughter, through the context of a relatively simple augmented reality (AR) game, highlights what really happens in our industry.


I ask my readers to simply look at the four points rostered above—all of which, with significant improvement, will enable AR games that will make Pokémon GO look like Pong. I suggest that this is the shape of things to come. And I am not alone


And if you think that such trivial applications like video games are perhaps not the best things to drive our industry, then take a hard look at the amount of money generated in mobile communications in general by entertainment. Some of us technical people will fret about the mountains of research, patents, prototypes, cell sites, networks, antennas, and software all apparently dedicated to little more than catching Mewtwo. Hey folks, it pays the bills.


[i] Choose from: 1 ms latency, 10 Gbps, device-to-device communications, 500 kmph mobility, etc., etc. (and see the NGMN White Paper for more).