Mobile signal woes 'strengthens' business case for 5G

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

New research has suggested that growing customer anger at poor signal could aid the business case for investment in 5G networks.

A study from RootMetrics has found that just 53 per cent of Brits are happy with their mobile upload and download speeds, but 79 per cent said they would be willing to pay marginally more for faster speeds or a better service.

That situation occurred when the first 4G services went live in the UK. Of the four major operators, only Three declined to charge a premium for access to the fastest speeds. RootMetrics’ study suggests that a similar tactic could be employed with 5G, but it should also be noted that price (63 per cent) is still the most important factor in choosing an operator.

Mobile satisfaction

The efficiencies afforded by 5G radio technology and the spectrum earmarked for deployment should result in faster speeds and higher capacity, but much of this will rely on macro infrastructure such as small cells that densify coverage.

The cost of equipment and rollout, combined with the difficulties in obtaining planning permission. could make this a laborious and costly task.

However RootMetrics hopes its survey will increase optimism.

“5G will flush everything out and become a ubiquitous technology for connectivity in metro areas – no more Wi-Fi,” said Kevin Hasley from RootMetrics. “At the moment operators in the UK are involved in a bit of a cat and mouse game with each other and government about who will invest first in the infrastructure. Clearly mobile operators need to plan their capital expenditure carefully, but 5G will be a key battleground to winning subscribers in the near future and there is first mover advantage here.

“People say they would pay more for better connectivity and that option is 100 percent available to them at the time of renewal, but many then make the decision on price alone.  It is a false economy and people end up biting their nose to spite their face. In most areas of life we make decisions based on what we think is value for money, not just purely price motivated ones. Many among us have a tendency to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

Some within the industry have called for operators to rollout small cells even before the arrival to 5G, claiming they will support existing LTE networks and futureproof their infrastructure.

The first commercial 5G networks are expected to launch in the UK in 2020.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.