5G adoption increasing rapidly, but failing to hit heightened expectations

Leading comms tech provider finds next wave of next-gen communications well under way – but significant portion also underwhelmed by 5G services

The past two years have seen the accelerated growth of 5G mobile networks, but while the UK’s consumer intentions to upgrade to 5G in the next 12 months are increasing, people are questioning why its coverage isn’t up to scratch, according to a study by Ericsson.

The 5G: The next wave Ericsson ConsumerLab report surveyed more than 49,000 consumers in 37 countries, and addressed the impact 5G has had on early adopter consumers since launching in various countries, as well as gauging the intention of non-5G subscribers to take up the technology.

The report covers the behavioural changes triggered by the bundling of digital services into 5G plans by communications service providers – particularly the increased use of enhanced video and augmented reality (AR) apps – and the speed of mainstream 5G adoption, whether consumer demands are being met, and 5G-related changes in smartphone behaviour and their impact on network traffic.

Fundamentally, the report forecasts that at least 30% of smartphone users intend to take up a 5G subscription in the next year. It noted that 5G adoption appears to be inflation-resilient: at least 510 million consumers across 37 markets said they were likely to take up 5G in 2023. The next wave of 5G users have high expectations on 5G performance, especially network coverage, compared with early adopters, who care about new, innovative services enabled by 5G.

The study also revealed that perceived 5G availability was emerging as the new satisfaction benchmark among consumers. Geographical coverage, indoor and outdoor coverage, and congregation hot-spot coverage are more important to building user perception than population coverage.

Furthermore, 5G was seen to be pushing up usage of enhanced video and augmented reality. Over the past two years, time spent on AR apps by 5G users was found to have doubled to two hours per week.

The report said 5G consumers with experience of using extended reality (XR) functionality are likely to be the first to embrace future devices as they are more positive about the potential of mixed-reality glasses. Half of 5G users who already use XR-related services weekly think that AR apps will move from smartphones to XR headsets in the next two years, compared with one-third of 4G consumer who hold this view.

Read more about 5G

The study also showed a monetisation path for the new networks. 5G monetisation models are expected to evolve, with three-fifths of consumers expecting 5G offerings to move beyond more data volume and speeds to on-demand tailored network capabilities for specific needs.

The scale of the research gives us an authentic insight into consumers’ views and attitudes to 5G. The report shows that the next wave of potential 5G users have different expectations of the technology compared with early adopters.

Overall, consumers see engaging with 5G as an essential part of their future lifestyles,” said Jasmeet Singh Sethi, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab.

“It’s interesting to note that 5G is emerging as an important enabler for early adopters to embrace metaverse-related services, such as socialising, playing and buying digital items in interactive 3D virtual gaming platforms. The amount of time spent on augmented reality apps by 5G users has also doubled over the past two years.”

However, there are some interesting downsides for the UK’s 5G arena. Even as UK consumer interest in 5G was growing – with 1.4 times as many 5G users in 2022 compared with 2020 and 64% not considering reducing spending on mobile data subscription – as consumers were using 5G services, they were questioning why UK 5G coverage isn’t up to scratch.

Moreover, UK 5G users were also underwhelmed by 5G services, for example, network issues such as faster battery draining and inconsistent speeds.

In addition, two-fifths of mobile users in the UK wanted tailored capabilities for specific needs.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

Data Center
Data Management