January 6, 2020

FinTech and the 5G Promise

As CES 2020 gets underway and the conversation starts anew about 5G networks and what they will look like this year, there is a theme starting to surface in that dialogue – everybody wants to know where is 5G’s elusive killer app?

After a heady 2019 with a few promising 5G handsets coming on the market and the roll-out of networks from Verizon to T-Mobile, we’re starting to hear a little backlash. In the U.S., it’s hard to get a signal or network speeds aren’t quite what we thought they would be. In other parts of the world, like the 5G-blanketed South Korea, some consumers are starting to wonder why they even need the service, since there seems to be no clear advantage to it.

This might be a good example of “if you build it, they will come.” OK, so maybe the 5G experience is no big deal right now – but looking beyond the immediate experience, 5G creates extremely fertile ground for innovation. The fact that we’re not seeing the killer app yet, after a few months of some spotty networks coming online, isn’t a reason to panic.

Where exactly will we see that spike in innovation? My bet is in the fintech sector. During the 4G era, there has been impressive innovation in that space. With a mobile-first approach we’ve seen apps streamline banking, give people more control over their assets, and provide a platform for pooling resources. As 5G comes online, we’ll see more innovation in business models; shared financial experiences like social saving; improved privacy and security; and more purpose-driven businesses that take advantage of improved, faster connectivity to bring people together.

Perhaps one of the most compelling elements of 5G is that the many-to-many connectivity it promises can enable new sorts of collaborative structures. Imagine apps that let companies share ideas with their user communities and iterate on those concepts in real-time. Yes, it’s technically possible today, but 5G brings a potentially exponential boost in scale, making that collaboration more powerful and effective.

At Earnin, we’ve created a business model predicated on giving our community a say in what we create, how we do business, and even what we charge. Internally, when we look at new technologies – especially 5G – we do so while asking how this improves our ability to bring our community into the innovation process.

We see tremendous potential for 5G to close the gap between invention and consumption. We see that happening across the technology sector in ways that impact our everyday lives. But my bet is that we start to see the real consumer benefits of 5G – the killer apps – emerge first around new business models, products and services in the fintech sector.


Photography courtesy of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® CES®

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