The next generation of cellular and wireless technologies is right around the corner, and in some places, it’s already here. As cities and companies begin to roll them out, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will start transforming the way we live and work—and they’ll wave their magic wand upon retail banking, too.
As the fifth generation of wireless, 5G is the latest cellular technology, designed to increase the speed and capacity of our wireless networks. We use it primarily in outdoor spaces and through our cellphones. Wi-Fi 6 is the sixth generation of Wi-Fi, used primarily indoors—and it, too, brings greater speed, lower latency (i.e., quicker downloading or streaming times), and an increased ability to handle more devices at a time.
Built from the same foundation, 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are complementary technologies offering the promise of dramatically higher bandwidth and faster connectivity. While both debuted this year, don’t expect a sudden change everywhere at once. Expect a timeline from 2019 to about 2022 as users and enterprises gradually transition to the new standard.
Financial institutions need not wait for a national rollout but can upgrade in their branches and offices at their own pace. Several vendors, including Cisco, already have Wi-Fi 6 access points available and ready for installation. The advent of 5G will pick up steam at a slightly slower pace, becoming a reality in more locations in 2020–2021.
How will 5G and Wi-Fi 6 impact retail banking?
Lower latency and higher bandwidths will open up a world of possibilities for banks. On the most basic level—even if an institution makes no changes to its digital offerings—bank technologists can look forward to better performance and greater ease of use on their existing apps and websites, including mobile banking applications.
At the other end of the spectrum, enhanced cellular and wireless technologies will let banks create richer digital experiences for their customers. In just about every industry (banking is no exception), lower latency will likely bring changes to two areas: immersive experiences and IoT, or the Internet of Things.
By immersive experiences, we’re talking about augmented and virtual reality platforms, which will become easier and faster to use on 5G and Wi-Fi 6. Most financial institutions don’t do a lot with virtual reality right now, but that might change. Imagine if customers could don a VR headset to learn about complex ideas like time value of money. Banks could also use virtual reality to help customers better grasp the value of their intangible products, such as long-term savings and retirement plans.
When it comes to IoT, which involves embedding internet capabilities into everyday objects, banks can take advantage of new opportunities here, too. The lower latency of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will allow retail banks to use IoT technology to provide more data-driven insights. For example, banks can combine location data with IoT proximity-sensing technology to measure foot-traffic volume—and use that data to determine where to open or close new branches, which in-branch services to offer, or how many ATMs to place in a location.
Is your institution up to the challenge?
While 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will open the door to new opportunities, financial institutions will also face new challenges. First, they’ll encounter the hurdle of successfully adopting these new technologies at scale. Second, as data flow increases, security will become even more critical, requiring IT to manage and secure an ever-growing network.
Institutions that can effectively manage challenges like these will thrive in the new tech landscape. Cisco has tools and solutions in place—such as data and insights that enable IT to support the business in real-time, the automation of routine tasks, and security that’s embedded into the network itself. Efforts like these will help retail banks and customers take advantage of everything 5G and Wi-Fi 6 have to offer.
At the end of the day, it’s up to each financial institution to decide how they’re going to make the most of the new technologies. Those who embrace the changes will be able to offer their customers richer and more personalized experiences—seizing the opportunity to differentiate themselves in a rapidly changing world.
Between envisioning a future and creating a new reality, there’s a bridge.