Verizon CEO Vestberg Takes 5G Hype to 11 at CES

LAS VEGAS—With marketing hype surrounding 5G already reaching levels unprecedented even for the wireless industry, and his company having made arguably the biggest marketing push behind the technology so far, Verizon CEO Hans Vesterberg stressed during his jam- -packed CES keynote at the Venetian’s Palazzo Ballroom that 5G is going be, well, a big thing.

How big?

“It’s going to change everything,” said Vestberg, athletically clad in a tight Verizon-branded T-shirt that wouldn’t be out of place at an Apple or Google product launch.

“It’s quantum leap over 4G,” Vestberg added, in a statement he repeated no less than four times.

Did he also use the term “fourth industrial revolution,” another favorite of 5G marketers? Yup. At least three times.

Related: Cable Industry Set to Plug ’10G’ at CES

“It’s a huge opportunity for all of us and our society,” added Vestberg, the 53-year-old Swedish businessman who took over the lead executive role for the No. 1 U.S. wireless company last year.

Of course, presenting what is the top business priority for Verizon, as well as its leading competitors, AT&T and T-Mobile, on what is consumer technology’s biggest stage, CES, required Vestberg to define the market opportunity for the fifth-generation wireless technology standard in the most grandiose of terms. And credit the former Swedish Olympic Committee President with understanding the opportunity and delivering a largely effective presentation.

To accomplish this goal, he received plenty of onstage help from various Verizon technology partners.

Making a brief appearance, for example, was New York Times CEO Mark Thompson, who presented how 5G could be used for new innovative story-telling techniques. Verizon is a partner on a new 5G journalism lab within the Times newsroom. With 5G, the paper could not only enable its reporters to include interactive and immersive still 3D image and video features with their stories, Thompson explained, its marketers could better target readers based on location, time of day and “mood space”—kind of like the search and discovery tools streaming video services use to build audiences today.

There was also a longer appearance on stage by Mariah Scott, president of commercial drone company Skyward, who showed how drones were being used in conjunction with 5G as an everyday tool by Southeastern U.S. utility company Southern. Instead of sending men up perilously high to inspect utility poles and to continuously monitor the utility’s 27,000 miles of lines, a network of drones is using 5G’s instantaneous communications capabilities to deliver network operators real-time status from up high in the sky.

This was an effective demonstration of 5G’s ability to control up to 1 million devices in a 1 kilometer square mile.

Making another appearance was Dr. Christopher Morley, co-founder of Medivis, a company attempting to blend technologies like virtual and augmented reality with medicine. Morley showed how 5G could vastly improve complex medical producers, including brain surgery, allowing practitioners to “see through” patients.

Related: Verizon Opens ‘5G Experience Lab,’ Further Ups the Hype But Not Its Game

But for those of us who have observed Verizon’s initial “limited” 5G launch last year in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, and have wondered just where in those cities the network service might actually be available, Vestberg presented what was perhaps the most impressive demo of them all—a live 5G-enabled feed, from Houston, of an actual 5G customer

The young man’s name is Clayton, and he said he uses the service for remote work, watching streaming video and for casual gaming. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!