STC Bahrain has announced the rollout of a “5.5G” network which would augment its existing 5G network in selected locations across the country. STC’s CEO claimed that this new network will be able to achieve speeds up to ten times faster than the operator’s existing 5G network.
Bahrain is not the only country to announce a “newer” and “better” version of 5G in 2022. Earlier this month, Bell Canada introduced “5G+”, which uses the 3500MHz spectrum to increase speed and network capacity. This week, Bell announced that it was expanding its 5G+ network to parts of Ontario.
Every day, the 5G field becomes more crowded with more second-tier operators and MVNOs launching services. This puts Tier One MNOs – those who have invested the most in building these networks in the first place – in the difficult position of facing more competition from lower priced providers. As seen in the cases above, some carriers have now taken to adding new terms to their 5G marketing to differentiate their plans. In general, these new terms – 5G+, 5.5G, 5G UW, etc. – are based on real changes to the underlying networks. The operators advertising them have continued to make investments in their networks, and then are looking to highlight these improvements in their marketing.
Still, this practice carries significant downside risk for carriers and should be avoided where possible. These kind of rebrands imply that the updates are somehow a different product, one that is better than 5G, which serves to inflate the importance of what are only incremental improvements to an existing network.
Globally, MNOs have invested significant time and money into selling 5G as the next step in wireless network evolution. Branding improvements to 5G as a different category of network only serves to confuse consumers and undermine the 5G brand overall. This makes such rebrands particularly harmful, as most 5G networks are still in the development phase, and many consumers are only just transitioning to 5G now.
Instead, operators might consider using more concrete terms in their marketing about their improvements to their 5G networks. Language that focuses on increased speed measurements or broader availability due to network upgrades could be used for differentiation without diminishing the overall 5G brand.