A morning panel moderated by AT&T Consumer CEO Thaddeus Arroyo featured speakers such as WarnerMedia Chief Revenue Officer Tony Goncalves and actor/producer/investor Ashton Kutcher.
“The impact of 5G on society is going to be massive,” Kutcher said. “It’s just that it’ll take a little time for people to see the results. But as we do, we’re going to realize that it was a game-changer.”
AT&T is devoting an increasing amount of resources to 5G and has changed its corporate profile in the process. It has set spinoffs of both DirecTV and WarnerMedia, after losing tens of billions on both acquisitions, in order to focus more on its traditional core telecom operations. The company has estimated its overall spending on 5G and fiber broadband will reach $24 billion after the expected close of the Discovery-WarnerMedia deal in 2022.
Along with rivals like Verizon and T-Mobile, AT&T believes 5G will be a step-change improvement across the board, delivering sharper images and more capacity for consumers. Along with entertainment, it has applications across medicine, business services and many other sectors. While the technology has begun rolling out in South Korea and other parts of the world, it is still in a nascent stage in the U.S. and early reports have been inconclusive.
Among the new partnerships announced by AT&T were team-ups with augmented-reality education company Bookful, air travel wi-fi provider Boingo, Facebook and the NBA and WNBA. Another revolves around Space Jam: A New Legacy, with major exhibitor Cinemark and WarnerMedia also involved. The film lands Friday in theaters and on HBO Max.
Goncalves cited the film during the panel as “the best example of how this can ultimately come to life for consumers.” For the entertainment business, 5G has vast potential, Goncalves said. “We went from radio to stage to screen. Now, we’re immersing.”
When he watched Space Jam with his staff at WarnerMedia’s headquarters this week, he said he realized it was the “prime example of a mixed-reality experience, a screenless experience.” In the film, LeBron James and his family “are in a world, with a variety of Looney Tunes characters, playing the game in real time and the world joins to watch. And when it’s over, they’re gone. Not a phone. So, that film almost predicts and envisions what the next generation of entertainment might look like.”
As a DirecTV executive, Goncalves recalled spearheading some early initiatives long before the 5G era. “It was so early, it was hard to envision what might come,” he said. “When you think of where we are now … it’s night and day.”