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Debunking 5G myths with consumer realities

By now, we’ve all heard about the transformative potential of 5G. But will it really have such a profound impact on our lives or is this an example of exaggerated industry hype? In a new report released on May 7, we identify and debunk four of the most common myths about the potential of 5G for consumers. Learn more about the Consumer Potential report and how to sign-up to receive a digital copy here.

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Despite some impressive 5G developments, such as the recent commercial launch of 5G in Korea and US focusing on the consumer market as well as in Switzerland, my daily news feed and discussions with industry analysts reveal a persistent level of skepticism.

So, what are they saying?

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Please read the 5G Consumer Potential report from Ericsson ConsumerLab

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In general, many critics are skeptical about the value of 5G for consumers. But I believe their concerns are not about the fundamentals of 5G; they simply want more proof. This is understandable, but we all have to remember that even if the early experience of 5G networks is nothing to write home about, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Additionally, much of today's criticism has been driven by polarizing opinions and myths, such as that 5G will be all about businesses and not consumers, and that there are no real use cases that would be relevant for the consumer market. Such is the uncertainty, that some believe 4G technology is already more than capable of doing everything consumers demand.

This has led analysts and commentators to warn that consumers are unlikely to pay a premium to access a service they don't need. These presumptions seem to have rubbed off on operators as well. In fact, I recently heard an operator's CTO at a conference saying:

"The monetization and the actual use case of 5G is harder. It is not like 2G, 3G or 4G. It is not going to address consumers. It needs to be more directed and steered towards enterprise use cases and enterprise solutions."

To date, smartphones have been key to driving mobile broadband technology adoption and the common presumption is that it will be the same in the 5G era. With the belief that 5G's potential is limited for consumers, the industry is uncertain about the future of mobile data usage and where 5G will lead us.

But not everybody is consumed by these myths; some believe that both consumers and industries are indeed the key pillars for the 5G era.

Looking back into history, such uncertainty and skepticism with previous generations of mobile technology is nothing new.

Every new technology, including 4G when it first launched, had to endure a wave of criticism. As time goes on, the criticism becomes more measured as doubters get to experience and enjoy the benefits of each new standard. For instance, I remember back in 2010 people predicted that 4G cellular networks might not live up to the hype. Fast forward to 2019, could anyone imagine us without 4G LTE mobile broadband networks?

I believe building 5G is a gradual process. It will get better over time so it's crucial that we don't disappoint early adopters or create a confusion around the technology.

As an emerging technology, there are definitely a lot of questions surrounding 5G's potential for consumers, and that's natural. However, I feel it is time to bring some depth to the debate. We at Ericsson ConsumerLab have produced the Consumer Potential report to identify and debunk some of the recurring myths surrounding 5G.

The four key myths around 5G:

  • There are no near-term consumer benefits of 5G
  • There are no real use cases for, or price premium on, 5G
  • Smartphones are the only solution for 5G
  • Current usage patterns accurately predict future 5G demand

On May 7, 2019, we will publish the 5G Consumer Potential report; our most comprehensive research capturing the opinions of 1 billion smartphone users globally. Our aim is to restore some realism to this discussion and answer the most important question the industry faces today. 

When it's all said and done, I believe we will soon have irrefutable evidence of the tangible benefits of 5G. In fact, if you take a closer look, there are signs that 5G development and rollout is already gathering momentum in the ICT industry. This is evident with the cases in South Korea, the US and Switzerland, and soon there will be more. In 10 years' time, I'm confident we will look back and wonder how we ever survived without 5G.

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