This Week's Message: There May Be A Game-Changer on the Horizon!
I'm hitting again this week on a theme I've presented herein a number of times in recent years, but, make no mistake, this one's indeed worth hitting again! While we can use charts and data till the cows come home to form our hypotheses, history (if we bother to look) reminds us that there's often more going on than meets the eye. The market was barreling into all-time-high territory in 1995, while the economy was beginning to show some serious cracks. Watch this classic CNBC video clip:
While, per the clip, there were definitely believers (the perennial bulls) on Wall Street, you can only imagine, given the picture painted in the second half of the video, how passionate were the market naysayers of the mid-90s.
But something happened between the 1995 all-time-high in stocks, a sagging labor market and the onset of the next recession. Here's the S&P 500 from the date of that video through the end of that decade:
So what the hell happened?!? Well, the internet happened...
1995: Compuserve, America Online and Prodigy begin to provide Internet access. Amazon.com, Craigslist and eBay go live. The original NSFNET backbone is decommissioned as the Internet’s transformation to a commercial enterprise is largely completed. 1996: The browser war, primarily between the two major players Microsoft and Netscape, heats up. CNET buys tv.com for $15,000. 1996: A 3D animation dubbed "The Dancing Baby" becomes one of the first viral videos. 1997: Netflix is founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph as a company that sends users DVDs by mail. 1997: PC makers can remove or hide Microsoft’s Internet software on new versions of Windows 95, thanks to a settlement with the Justice Department. Netscape announces that its browser will be free. 1998: The Google search engine is born, changing the way users engage with the Internet. 1998: The Internet Protocol version 6 introduced, to allow for future growth of Internet Addresses. The current most widely used protocol is version 4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses allowing for 4.3 billion unique addresses; IPv6, with 128-bit addresses, will allow 3.4 x 1038 unique addresses, or 340 trillion trillion trillion. 1999: AOL buys Netscape. Peer-to-peer file sharing becomes a reality as Napster arrives on the Internet, much to the displeasure of the music industry.
The efficiencies gained propelled corporate profitability and, thus, the stock market through the roof!
Plus, ironically, internet-induced productivity gains -- that may very well have influenced the temporary declining jobs picture depicted in the video -- ultimately opened up entire new vistas that needed workers to fill them.
Weekly jobless claims from December '93 to December '95 (as emphasized in the video):
Weekly jobless claims from December '95 to the end of the decade:
So here we sit today, Dow 26,000 (yep 5+ times where it sat in '95); and while the labor market is uber-better today than it was in '95, there are nevertheless other concerning economic developments that have my (and the Federal Open Market Committee's!) attention.
But beyond the destructiveness of trade wars -- which we'll have to get beyond relatively soon or the present expansion is indeed kaput! -- we're still staring down the longest bull market in all of history! Surely its near run its course! I mean, it's not like there's another internet phenomenon on the horizon, right?
Well, believe it or not, there very well may be: They call it 5G, and it will indeed be a game changer.
So what is 5G? While a google search will connect you to more explanation than you can shake a memory stick at, 5G.co.uk does a good job breaking it down:
What is 5G?5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks and it’s finally here. It follows previous mobile generations 2G, 3G and 4G. Compared to most of today’s networks (which primarily use 4G and 3G technology), 5G is set to be far faster and more reliable, with greater capacity and lower response times. Unlike those previous generations of mobile network, 5G is unlikely to be defined by any single form of technology. It’s often referred to as "the network of networks" for the way it will bind together multiple existing and future standards, including current advanced LTE (4G) networks.
Beyond a simple performance increase, 5G is set to open up a whole new set of use cases such as: superfast mobile broadband with no need for landlines, super smart factories, car to car and car to infrastructure communication, driverless cars, holographic technology, the arrival of 5G phones and devices such as 5G TVs, and remote/ distance health care for patients.
5G’s key features
Here’s why many say 5G is set to be a game-changer:
Faster Speeds - 5G is set to be much faster than previous generation networks – some are saying as much as 100 times faster than existing 4G networks. To get more specific, 5G may offer speeds as fast as 10Gb/s. This would mean the ability to download a full HD movie in under 10 seconds on a 5G network, compared to 10 minutes on 4G. Some estimates see 5G being even faster than that.
Lower Latency - 5G will also have much lower latency. We’ll see much less delay or lag when we’re using our phones and other devices. With 4G networks, latency is typically around 40-50 milliseconds. With 5G it should be 1 millisecond or less, which is undetectable to the user.
Greater Capacity - 5G will have greater capacity, meaning the networks will be able to cope better with many high-demand applications all at once - from connected cars and IoT (Internet of Things) devices to virtual reality experiences and simultaneous HD video streaming.
Reliability - 5G is expected to be ‘ultra-reliable’, meaning no dropped calls or connectivity, which will allow more ‘critical’ use cases such as those related to digital health and connected cars.
Flexibility - 5G networks promise to be more flexible -- network slicing allows a physical network to be divided into multiple virtual networks so the operator can use the right ‘slice’ depending on the requirements of the use case.
Improved Battery Life - While all this sounds like it might drain your battery pretty quickly, actually 5G is being tipped to extend the battery life of devices by up to ten times.
And here's what I'm talking about!!
Benefits and business case
Qualcomm reckons the 5G value chain will generate up to $3.5 trillion (£2.65 trillion) in revenue in 2035, and support as many as 22 million jobs. Qualcomm has also forecast that 5G will boost global GDP growth by $3 trillion (£2.27 trillion) cumulatively from 2020 to 2035.
A report from PSB Research, which surveyed over 3,500 people including business decision leaders, analysts and tech enthusiasts, found that as a result of 5G:
91% expect new products and services that have yet to be invented
87% expect new industries to emerge
82% expect small business growth and more global competition
85% expect it to make companies more globally competitive
89% expect increased productivity
Mobile comes of age: Qualcomm’s study, The 5G Economy, concludes that 5G will “catapult” mobile to become a ‘general purpose technology’ on a par with electricity and the car. This, Qualcomm says, will have a transformational impact on the economy and many industries.
Productivity: A key benefit of 5G could be helping businesses work more quickly and more efficiently – in turn, saving costs and increasing revenue.
Remote working: Although remote working has been on the business agenda for well over a decade, it hasn’t quite taken off as much as people thought it would. While part of this is a cultural issue in businesses, it’s also been a technology issue. Conference calls are still quite stilted and often awkward, for example. AR, VR and seamless connectivity could make remote meetings feel as if you’re in the same room finally. With 5G, businesses will have constant unbroken access to a fast, reliable internet connection. To all intents and purposes, it will be like having an extremely good Wi-Fi hotspot covering the entire developed world.
Rural innovation: Many countries, including the UK, are looking to 5G to better connect rural communities, allowing more people to start businesses from home and opening up opportunities. That’s key, as data from Ofcom finds that geographically, only 63% of the UK has mobile data coverage from all of the four main providers. 5G RuralFirst, a UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) project between the private sector, government and academia, is exploring rural business opportunities enabled by 5G, such as agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities.
AR/VR: The augmented and virtual reality applications that 5G is expected to support could have significant applications in various industries – particularly retail, property, entertainment, gaming, manufacturing and tourism. ABI Research estimates that the AR and VR market will reach $292 billion (£221 billion) by 2025.
Tailored networks: With network slicing, it will be possible for a business to practically own their own private 5G network, precisely set up according to its specific business needs. 5G will certainly have much greater capacity across a much wider range of spectrums, but it will also use that space more intelligently, assigning only the resources necessary for each application.
Lower costs: The shift from a hardware to a software-based network environment will bring about lower overheads for mobile operators. Those savings will in turn be able to be passed on to business customers.
Flexible office spaces: These ‘smart buildings’ will be able to employ small radio sensors to monitor occupancy, lighting and temperature. CCTV footage of those office spaces will be able to be streamed live to mobile devices. All in all, this will help provide more flexible, efficient, secure and ultimately cheaper work spaces for small businesses to operate in.
Easier commutes: Smart and automated transport, finally enabled by a stable and fast mobile network, will ensure that there’s significantly less time wasted commuting. Even while using this more efficient transportation, speedy mobile connectivity on public transport will enable employees to work more effectively during commutes and other out-of-office travel.
These are some examples of how specific industries could benefit thanks to 5G.
HealthcareDeloitte estimates that the UK market for digital health will grow to £2.9 billion in 2018, and this is just the beginning. Services such as remote and robotic surgery are developing fast. Remote patient monitoring and patient records access are advancing rapidly too. The hope is that services such as these will free up resources and offer greater convenience, independence and choice for patients. A forecast from O2 suggests that 5G will free up 1 million hours of GP time and represent up to £1.3 billion in productivity gains thanks to reduced workplace absence. Transforming the healthcare industry will also offer new business opportunities for various types of businesses, including telcos, app developers, pharmaceutical companies, wearable device manufacturers, government health organisations, insurance companies and more.
ManufacturingManufacturing companies around the world are facing pressures to deliver products faster and more cheaply. On top of this, products are often becoming more complex too. At the same time, some industries have an ageing workforce and are concerned about a skills drain. 5G is expected to usher in automation like never before in manufacturing, creating smart factories that will make processes more efficient and cut costs. This also, of course, brings a risk of job losses and the jury is out on whether industrial automation will leave people out of work or free them up to do more creative tasks. Augmented reality, enabled by 5G, will also bring benefits for manufacturers, opening up further opportunities for digital twins and remote maintenance, for example.
Transport5G is expected to usher in self-driving vehicles, as well as making smart traffic lights even more intelligent, reducing the time waiting in traffic. In theory, in the future, people will be able to work as they travel by car. Better connectivity is hopefully coming to trains with 5G too. Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital, has said that by 2025, every train should achieve speeds of 1 Gigabit Per Second (Gbps). In Japan last year Samsung completed a 5G demonstration on a moving train in partnership with Japanese telecommunications carrier KDDI. The trial saw peak speeds of 1.7Gbps and successfully demonstrated 8K video downloading on-board, as well as 4K video upload. Freight and logistics should also benefit. Enabling low-latency vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle to roadside infrastructure communications is a key driver for the deployment of 5G, according to ABI Research. Driverless trucks and lorries are forecast to potentially be on the roads in the next 10 years. Trials on public roads are under way in many regions including the US and the EU.
RetailMobile AR shopping experiences will revolutionise retail, with customers able to visualise products in a local environment. In-store, AR will enable shoppers to view additional information on a product simply by pointing their phones at it. Retail businesses will also be able to benefit from connected smart parking allocation systems, which will help encourage more potential customers into urban areas. Something similar is already being used successfully in Los Angeles, but with 5G connectivity such a smart system could become far more widespread. And 5G’s improved connectivity will encourage the discovery of local businesses, and the online exploration of their apps and services from users’ smart devices. With the eradication of performance issues and the expected easing of data prices, it will be possible to make those gateway services much richer and more enticing.
Again, and alas!, the trade war stands to ultimately kill the present expansion and bull market, and, ironically, dramatically slow 5G's progression. But whether we're on the doorstep (should smarter heads prevail on trade), or we're talking further out, 5G is potentially huge in terms of what it'll do for businesses, as well as consumers; perhaps as huge as the internet itself!