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5G: Consumer Familiarity and Excitement Growing in US, but What Will People Buy?

by Philip Kendall | Jan 03, 2019

Service Providers (carriers and the Un-carrier) need to hone their 5G consumer positioning

Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Director, Service Provider Strategies

The released today—a research study commissioned by T-Mobile US, conducted by HarrisX in December 2018 among 5,000 US Connected Consumers—found that 52% of connected consumers over 18 in the US were aware of 5G and at least claimed to have a minimal level of familiarity with the technology. Interestingly, this is quite on par with early familiarity with 4G at its outset, as Strategy Analytics’ survey of smartphone owners in January 2011 showed 54% said they were familiar with 4G  (a month after Verizon’s 4G LTE launch, four months after MetroPCS’s first to launch LTE in the US and about a half year after Sprint’s WiMAX launch).

The same study commissioned by T-Mobile shows good levels of excitement about 5G, with 64% saying they were at least somewhat excited about 5G—and excitement rose with the level of familiarity with 5G. Notably, in terms of use cases, two of the top 3  that most excited consumers (of the use cases included in the survey) were for replacement of home TV and internet services, rather than mobile use cases.  

Yet turning this relatively strong awareness and excitement for 5G into paying customers is not an easy task. Strategy Analytics is predicting 5G will reach only 0.3% of total wireless subscribers in 2019, growing to 35% of the wireless subscription base by end of 2023 (excluding M2M)- See our Worldwide Cellular User Forecast 2018-2023.

Part of the challenge will be the cost of early 5G smartphones, which will be the predominant early device category among consumers—even as mobile hotspots (“pucks”) take the lead as the initial mobile 5G devices to market. Strategy Analytics has addressed the challenges device vendors face in the disruptive 5G market, Winners and Losers in a Disrupted 5G Future .

Without doubt 5G will improve the delivery of services to mobile device customers. Service delivery in terms of data speeds and throughput (faster downloads/uploads) and lower latency will outperform 4G networks. For smartphone users, this means faster downloads of videos and HD movies, the ability to instantly download applications and files, and an improved experience for those playing games where low latency is important (i.e. multiplayer games). However, for the most part, current 4G networks and smartphones prove adequate for these kinds of applications. It will be incumbent upon the wireless industry, led by operators, to develop and articulate new use cases for 5G in a mobile environment that move beyond what is already available from 4G.  Failure to do so will slow adoption of 5G services and devices among consumers who will already be wary of the higher prices that 5G services and devices will command.

Turning Awareness and Excitement into Real Demand -- and Dollars      
Having positive sentiment about different tech-enabled services is nothing new, but how will it impact people’s daily lives?  Where should carriers be focusing first to drive demand?

We have raised a number of key business questions that still need to be addressed:

Challenges and Questions Remain – Of Course

Despite the forming consensus around the opportunity of 5G, there are still challenges that operators and the entire 5G ecosystem need to address, such as:

  • How can 5G be de-risked and opportunities maximized?
  • How will enterprises, verticals and consumer end-users respond to 5G offerings?
  • What segments or clusters should be targeted first?
  • What 5G services and use cases give the best opportunity for revenue stimulation?
  • How should service providers best prepare and evolve services to monetize 5G networks as well as delight end-users to attract and retain subscribers?

(See: As 5G Nears Operators Still Need to Address Business Questions)

Even though early jockeying for 5G position will focus heavily on network coverage, speeds and device promotions, tough competition means technology itself will not be enough to win sustainable 5G market share.

Strategy Analytics encourages operators to hone their consumer 5G strategies and go-to-market positioning through differentiated consumer marketing—to build strong value proposition in service offerings and build on their brand strengths.

Our Consumer Insights team has leading expertise in examining options for addressing these strategic marketing issues through targeted market research including:

  • Behavioral segmentation to identify actionable market segments and their needs.
  • Improved brand positioning to create differentiated emotional themes that relate to buyer needs and pain points
  • Innovative value propositions that are derived from segment-specific requirements and willingness-to-pay
  • New competitive strategies for addressing disruptive churn and client retention beyond simplistic NPS approaches

Strategy Analytics looks forward to further discussions on performance improvement in the emerging 5G environment and ways to stimulate and address growing consumer excitement to create demand and willingness to pay.

Contact us at to discuss how we can aid you in driving 5G demand.

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