Consumer benefits of 5G deserve to be better understood

26 January 2021

by Gemma Allen Manager

Email +44 (0)7715 497703

by Ian Sparham Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7768 596049

5G is the fifth-generation technology for cellular communications. Compared with 4G, primary benefits include improved bandwidth, latency, reliability, connection density and security - all important factors in the increasing move to remote working and greater reliance on online services.

Consumer awareness of 5G is high, but the intention to upgrade remains limited. While telecoms companies should highlight how it can support new business service offerings, they also need to better communicate the other benefits, use cases, business models and revenue opportunities.

Awareness and understanding of 5G

Despite the UK national roll-out beginning in May 2019, a recent PwC Research survey* found that while 94% of consumers are aware of 5G, over a third still had no understanding of it. Only 12% claim to know a lot about it, with women significantly less aware (9% awareness) than men (16% awareness).

There also remains confusion about 5G’s availability across devices. A third (33%) said it was a mobile-only service and 38% were unsure. Only 30% thought it was available for all devices.

Adoption and intention to upgrade

Data suggests that the more people understand 5G, the more they will want it. 63% of respondents thought they would benefit from a faster wifi connection, 61% would benefit from improved internet connection/wifi coverage, 59% from faster internet downloads and 55% agreed that improved streaming would be beneficial.

But while the majority wanted improved services, only 7% had a 5G-enabled mobile contract (most through contract upgrades rather than active purchase); 17% hoped to get 5G within the next 12 months, but 76% had no plans to upgrade.

Barriers to adoption

Those with some understanding of 5G but no current plans to upgrade were asked why. While cost was a barrier, the most popular response was that 4G was sufficient to meet their current needs.

It would appear that the allure of 5G is either not great enough, not well enough understood, or that its benefits are not sufficiently believed yet. Either way, it is clear that if consumers are to realise 5G’s true value, they need the service better explained to them.

Previous PwC consumer research in the US showed that novel benefits such as virtual or augmented reality were far less appealing to consumers than more reliable service, faster downloads and lower costs. It, therefore, seems sensible to show how 5G enhancements will improve day-to-day life. While marketing advanced, high-tech benefits resonates with early adopters, it can confuse and limit mainstream adoption.

PwC’s 5G Outlook Series looks at the benefits of 5G and the rise of use cases as a result of COVID-19. In ‘Why agility will be key in a 5G world’, we look at how the best return on investment will be in its ability to enable innovation and harness business growth. But opportunities are still significant in the consumer space. The financial gains may be smaller, but consumer gains are also important. While telecoms companies should be mindful of the financial struggles of some of their customers, there will also be those open to the messaging. There will be many who welcome a greater understanding of the advantages of 5G and for whom the benefits will outweigh the cost.

Look out for a new instalment of our 5G insights next month. In ‘The global economic impact of 5G. Powering your tomorrow’, we will quantify the economic impact of new and existing cases in several industries, including the consumer and media industry, and how these will drive a global industrial evolution. For more information on this topic, read how to supercharge your business with 5G.

*PwC Research survey completed mid-December 2020 by 1,000 nationally representative UK participants 

by Gemma Allen Manager

Email +44 (0)7715 497703

by Ian Sparham Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7768 596049