5G: How Much Do Consumers Know, How Much Do They Care?

People looking at smartphonesThe term “5G” has been floating around for some time now, with major telcos investing heavily into network upgrades and marketing campaigns focused on the next-gen wireless standard. And while a recent consumer survey suggests many are aware of the overall bullet points — faster speeds, better coverage — excitement levels haven’t exactly spiked so far.

Waveform recently polled around 1,000 adults and their findings suggest around two-thirds of consumers were, at best, somewhat excited by the advent of 5G service.  In all, 41.2 percent said they were somewhat excited, while a quarter responded they were either “not so excited” or “not at all excited.”

That represents just a minor shift compared to the group’s 2018 polls, even while overall awareness improved over that same period.

“Apparently a better understanding of 5G’s benefits hasn’t translated into customer interest,” the report states.

The tempered enthusiasm may be a result of marketing hype clashing with current reality. Many forward-looking 5G ads from the major wireless companies tout lower latency, faster download speeds, and breaking down communication barriers. However, initial rollouts of 5G platforms can seem underwhelming, with companies like Verizon offering significant speed improvements, but in limited areas, or T-Mobile’s initial 5G offerings with performance similar to existing 4G LTE.

Meanwhile, AT&T has been moving forward with three different versions of “5G,” including 5GE, which has been criticized in the past for being a rebranding of the company’s current 4G LTE network. The company’s other efforts include a low-band 5G with speeds similar to 4G LTE, and its mmWave 5G that, like Verizon’s offering, boasts speed improvements, but in limited areas.

5G Report
Image: Waveform

Another interesting aspect from the report: T-Mobile and Sprint customers (which are now, of course, all T-Mobile customers) appear to be more excited about the tech than AT&T or Verizon. Around 43 percent of T-Mobile customers, and 38 percent of Sprint users report being either very excited or extremely excited by the prospect and potential of 5G. Meanwhile, just 34.1 of AT&T users report the same level of enthusiasm — 29.6 percent of Verizon customers responded in a similar fashion.

That could speak to the success of respective marketing efforts, though the survey suggests wireless companies still have work to do in relaying the potential benefits of 5G. The arrival of more high-end, 5G-capable phones (the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 phones support it, but current iPhones do not) should also help.

In any case, it’s clear we’re still very much in the early days of 5G and we’ll continue following its development in the future.

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