Waveform Survey: Consumers Unexcited and Unsure of 5G’s Benefits

Executive Summary:

Americans do not appear to fully comprehend the ultra overhyped and mostly false claimed benefits of 5G (like ultra low latency, e.g <=1 msec in data plane and <=10 msec in control plane) and ultra high reliability which haven’t been specified yet, let alone standardized or implemented.

In fact, only one-third (32.8%) of U.S. consumers “very clearly” or “extremely clearly” understood how they would benefit from 5G, according to this new Waveform survey.

Methodology: Waveform commissioned SurveyMonkey to poll 1,065 adult Americans online on March 30. To provide a wider sample of the US population, the online survey company utilized its age- and gender-normalized panel. Measures were taken to organize a sample representative of the overall population. The company reports a 3% confidence interval of its results excluding a noted exception in which the survey included only a respondent subset.

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Highlights of Waveform’s Report related to 5G:

  • Many consumers still aren’t sure of the benefits of 5G
    • Despite heavy 5G marketing, only 32.8% of consumers said they understand the benefits of 5G very clearly. This is an increase over the last time we asked this question in October 2018, but still represents a minority of users.
  • Most consumers aren’t very excited about 5G
    • 65.7% of consumers said they weren’t very excited about 5G. There was only a small increase in excitement about 5G compared to the last time we asked this question in October 2018.

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All the major US carriers have been heavily touting their new 5G networks with large advertising campaigns. The advertised major benefits of 5G are lower latency, higher data rates, and greater capacity. But the landscape is extremely confusing, with three different flavors of 5G, each with different levels of improvement over 4G LTE.

Here’s a quick overview of the different versions of 5G offered today by each US carrier:

  • AT&T has 3 version of 5G. 5GE (the “E” stands for “evolution”) is just a rebrand of existing 4G LTE and not true 5G at all. AT&T’s 5G refers to 5G technology on their low-band 850 MHz spectrum, which shows slight improvements in performance for users over 4G LTE. Finally there’s AT&T’s 5G Plus, which refers to millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G that is being rolled out in urban areas and offers dramatic increases in data rates
  • Verizon has been focused on mmWave 5G, which they call “Ultra Wideband 5G.” Coverage is limited to urban areas, but where coverage exists, it offers huge improvements in speeds.
  • T-Mobile is rolling out low-band 5G on their 600 MHz spectrum. This version of 5G offers slight improvements in performance compared to 4G LTE. While T-Mobile have licenses for 5G on mmWave frequency bands, they haven’t started rolling it out yet.
  • Sprint, unlike other carriers, hasn’t been rolling out low-band or mmWave 5G. Instead, they’ve been rolling out the new technology on their huge swath of 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum.

Waveform asked customers how clearly they understood the benefits of 5G, and the results showed that the marketing is having at least some effect. Customers understand 5G better than before: 32.8% of respondents said they understand the benefits “very clearly” or “extremely clearly,” compared to 21.2% who reported the same in October 2018.

However, overall, the majority of people have a hazy view of the benefits of 5G. 67.2% of respondents understood 5G “somewhat clearly,” “not so clearly,” or “not at all clearly.” The results are hardly surprising given the alphabet soup of different varieties of 5G. And customer understanding likely hasn’t been helped by AT&T’s marketing-driven decision to rename recent 4G LTE network upgrades as 5GE.

 

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While US consumers understand the benefits of 5G slightly better than when we asked the same question in 2018, their excitement hasn’t increased in quite the same way.

65.7% of our panel of respondents said that they weren’t “very” or “extremely” excited about 5G. That represents only a small change from our October 2018 poll, when 70.1% said they weren’t “very” or “extremely” excited. Apparently a better understanding of 5G’s benefits hasn’t translated into customer interest.

Breaking the results down by carrier showed a clear divide: T-Mobile and Sprint customers are significantly more excited about 5G than Verizon or AT&T. 43.3% of T-Mobile subscribers and 38.2% of Sprint subscribers were highly excited about 5G, whereas just 29.6% of Verizon subscribers and 34.1% of AT&T subscribers reported the same.

The complete Waveform report is available at:

https://www.waveform.com/pages/5g-and-t-mobile-merger-report-04-20