The results are in: “Generation Z” has surpassed “Generation Y” (also known as Millennials) as the largest generation in the United States, according to the CDC Vital Statistics Report (National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 66, No. 1, January 5, 2017). With over 71 million births between 1995 and 2012, Generation Z easily surpassed what was America’s largest generation, Generation Y, by 3 million births.

Brought into this world between 1977 and 1994, Generation Y is known for their sophistication, technology savvy, and immunity to traditional marketing and sales pitches. Being less brand loyal and growing up in the age (and speed) of the Internet has made Generation Y well-versed in communication technology. Living through the 500+ channel cable buffet, many have become cord-cutters and will likely continue to be. Cord-cutting is the practice of completely cancelling traditional cable television or landline connection in favor of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service. Cord-cutters keep only what they can’t live without. For example, a cord-cutting sports fan might subscribe for a ‘sports’ package but rely on the Internet for their news.

The previous generation was known as Generation X. Born between 1966-1976, Generation X came of age from 1988-1994, and were known as the “lost” generation of “latchkey” kids. Generation X is known as the best educated generation but has the worst voting record and was exposed to lots of daycare and divorce.

Before Generation X came two Baby Boomer generations - I and II. Boomers were split into two demographics, as each were different in cultural life experiences, attitudes, and societal behaviors. Born between 1946 and 1954, Boomers I lived through the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, and either served in or protested the Vietnam War. Boomers II were born between 1955 and 1965, came of age between 1973 and 1983, missing the whole war thing, and became known as Generation Jones. The Jones generation lost much of its trust in government (Watergate) and the positive outlook enjoyed by the previous Boomers’ era – who enjoyed many of the best jobs and opportunities.

US birth rates chart

The demographic characteristics of Generation Z, also known as the “iGeneration,” are still being formulated, as they come of age between 2013 and 2020. However, what is known is that this generation will have the highest levels of technology exposure to date, living in a highly sophisticated media and computer world. Most Generation Z’ers have multiple smart devices, portable Internet access connections, and live off Over-The-Top (OTT) in their “screen addicted” life. They have an expectation of being connected to their friends, their work, the news, and multiple sources of entertainment anytime, anywhere. Their highly evolved attention spans demand social media in an 8-second filter, quickly sorting and accessing huge amounts of content. While going ‘viral’ is a term coined from their social appetites, be forewarned – that appetite can just as quickly fall off the radar.

Consumption models are changing – Generation Z have in their pockets, a radio studio, a TV studio, and a movie studio.

As consumption models for Generations Y and Z become the dominant market demographic, cable operators will be well positioned by driving fiber deeper and using dynamic and agile optical technologies. Driving fiber deeper enables faster WiFi, closer content, and increased capacity resulting in an improved customer Quality-of-Experience (QoE).

Ciena’s modular packet-optical architecture, along with its multiple award-winning coherent optical processor technology and Liquid Spectrum, are just a few advanced optical technologies that transform static optical networks into dynamic, agile, and flexible assets. These capabilities close the generation gap for cable operators, leaving that 500+ channel universe a distant memory.

So, are you ready for Generation Z?

Ciena can help you modernize your network assets to bridge the generation gap.