UK business and consumers 'confused' about benefits of 5G

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A new study claims a lack of understanding about 5G is leading to myths and misconceptions about the technology and that more should be done to raise awareness about the benefits and capabilities.

At best, a lack of understanding will dilute demand for 5G devices and services – harming operator and manufacturer revenues and forfeiting the potential economic impact of next-generation networks.

But at the other end of the spectrum, the worst case scenario is that these myths cause more acts of criminal damage against essential mobile infrastructure and verbal and physical assaults against critical network engineers.

5G awareness 

According to research conducted by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS), awareness among businesses is strong but 5G is not a priority. More than half (56 per cent) say 5G is already important to their organisation and 27 per cent believe it will be so in the future. However just fifth are treating it with urgency over the next 12 months with coverage issues and call quality bigger issues.

Among consumers, there is a general acknowledgement that 5G will be important in the future with three quarters stating they plan on getting a 5G phone and 53 per cent saying they will do so in the next three years.

However other statistics demonstrate a degree of antipathy. Two fifths (39 per cent) have no idea whether 5G will improve quality of service, while two thirds will wait until they are migrated from 4G to 5G by their mobile operator.

Somewhat definitively, as many as 15 per cent say they will never own a 5G phone. Whether this is because of a lack of need or hostility towards 5G is unclear although presumably it will be a challenge to purchase a handset without 5G connectivity in the future.

“It’s certainly a positive for operators that many British firms already recognise the importance of 5G for their future business applications,” said Paul Carter, GWS CEO. “However, there appears to be ongoing uncertainty amongst businesses and their employees as to what 5G really is and what it could mean for levelling up business capabilities, as well as confusion from the wider public as to whether 5G has actually arrived yet and in what capacity.

“These sentiments show there is a significant need for a stronger, clearer communications strategy around the huge potential of 5G – particularly at a time when we have become more reliant on network connectivity than ever before.

“Now is a crucial time for all key stakeholders in the rollout of 5G – including authorities, operators and consumer-facing groups – to reach out to the public to quell common misunderstandings and take a more active role in educating the nation on the tangible, positive ways that 5G will impact people and the communities they engage in.

“We need to go beyond the fairly limited scope of existing messages around increases in speed to communicate the extent of what 5G could truly mean for both businesses and consumers alike. We need to be giving people much more regular, multi-layered messages around why 5G is not just a step-up in terms of a single factor like network speed, but a real step-change in how we will conduct our lives in terms of well-being, productivity, transportation, lifestyle, availability and costs of resources and services, and much more.” 

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.