Tech, 5G and the pandemic: consumers have their say

The latest Ericsson Consumerlab research has been published, and reveals key insights into the consumer opinions of the COVID-19 crisis. How are consumers adapting to the new normal, and how has connectivity helped them through the last few months? We discuss the findings, here.

Tech, 5G and the pandemic: consumers have their say
Category & Hashtags

It’s 9am and time for the weekly briefing with my team that’s working around the clock to launch one of the most daunting consumer research exercises in the history of Ericsson ConsumerLab: we’re on course to gathering consumer sentiment data during the COVID-19 pandemic. With 11 markets, 12,000 consumers to be interviewed and opinions representative of 700 million users globally, the assignment at hand is not only challenging but an intimidating one.

This is not a usual time that one does market research. We all agree that we need to be extra careful about how we seek consumer feedback during such a crisis. We need to be sensitive and empathetic to the respondents taking our survey. After all, we’re dealing with human emotions.

Two weeks later, we’re ready and armed with data to answer the most pressing questions the telecom industry is facing today – how are consumers adapting to the new normal and what does the future hold?

Patrik Cerwall, Head of Strategic Marketing and Executive Editor of Ericsson Mobility Report, and Jasmeet  Singh Sethi, Head of ConsumerLab, reveal the latest ConsumerLab findings at Ericsson Unboxed.

Patrik Cerwall, Head of Strategic Marketing and Executive Editor of Ericsson Mobility Report, and Jasmeet Singh Sethi, Head of ConsumerLab, reveal the latest ConsumerLab findings at Ericsson Unboxed.

Networks shook but never collapsed

With so many countries in lockdown, and so many people working and learning from home, online usage has risen significantly. Service providers are having to increase network capacity to deal with traffic spikes next to consumers’ homes, but are the networks holding up well in the eyes of the consumers?

The average time spent connected to fixed broadband increased by 2.2hrs per day while for those connected to 4G networks saw an increase by an average of 1 hour a day. In markets like India where 4 in 10 relied primarily on 4G networks to keep them connected, this increase was twice as much per day on cellular networks.

It’s not just the amount of time we’re spending on the internet and the different services that we’re using that have changed; the time of day is different, too. A quarter of 15-19 year olds in the US say they have started streaming videos on smartphones in the morning, 22 percent started around lunch time, 21 percent in the late afternoon, and 15 percent at around dinner time. The only online downtime they had during the crisis was when they were sleeping!

With 74 percent saying that mobile networks were performing better or the same, compared to before the crisis, it’s is safe to say that despite all odds the networks have managed to meet consumer expectations. But additional capacity offered by 5G could have definitely helped.


Will consumer interest in 5G decline?

There is undoubtedly a lot of speculation about whether the pandemic will dampen the 5G demand among consumers and derail the aggressive deployment plans from the service providers.
In general, consumers are preparing for a scenario to live with future waves of such crisis. However, the impact of the economic downturn is indeed weighing on their minds and they are therefore looking to cut down on discretionary spends to ensure financial security. Despite this, the increased reliance on resilient connectivity for work, entertainment and education has meant that ICT spending is still prioritized by consumers to prepare for future crises.

With retail locations closed, 5G handset sales are likely to become less common. However, as countries ease restrictions, 5G demand is likely to pick up.

Around 2 in 5 consumers in India and China, and 1 in 5 in US and Spain say they will upgrade to 5G handsets to better prepare for the next waves of such a crisis.

An equal share of users in these markets also plan to invest in reliable home broadband connectivity to better prepare for the next wave of the pandemic. While uncertainty looms on how long the current crisis will last, there are no signs of demand eroding for 5G connectivity.


Consumers look beyond 5G conspiracy theories

Beyond the increased usage of ICT, we also looked at consumer uncertainties with 5G during the pandemic, with specific focus on the rumors and unfounded conspiracy theories. The good news is that our survey shows that 6 out of 10 consumers have a very positive view towards the role 5G could play during such a crisis, meaning the fake news hasn’t had much of an impact.

Consumers see they could have benefited from 5G speeds to meet work from home demands, either with Fixed Wireless Access or 5G enhanced mobile broadband. 5G-enabled robots could also take up more tasks beyond monitoring, such as taking measurements or disinfecting spaces, reducing the time medical staff need to spend with infectious patients. A good example of how robots could keep front-line workers safe is the use of Tommy, one of the six nursing robots being used in a hospital in Italy for Covid19 patients. Technology like VR and AR could also have helped with immersive education for kids turning their screen time to valuable learning time.

The current crisis and all the constraints that have arisen reveal not only the immediate, but also future consequences. Not least the timetable for the rollout of 5G, with 4 in 10 strongly agreeing that 5G should have been rolled out much faster.


Five ways in which this crisis will accelerate emerging technologies, including 5G

Out of a crisis, new and incredible opportunities can emerge, and the importance of 5G has never been more evident. However, we see five broad trends that will transcend in the future and will accelerate technologies such as AI and automation, Edge Cloud and XR.

Stay tuned as I shed more light on some of these trends in my next blog post.

Learn more

Read the full results on Connectivity in a Covid-19 world.

Discover more insights on the latest ConsumerLab research

Browse our other ConsumerLab reports that cover the future of technology.


The Ericsson Blog

Like what you’re reading? Please sign up for email updates on your favorite topics.

Subscribe now

At the Ericsson Blog, we provide insight to make complex ideas on technology, innovation and business simple.