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5G shifts global smartphone user behaviour

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5G is already having a big impact on smartphone users worldwide and what they expect the technology to deliver in the future.

This is according to a new study – Five Ways to a Better 5G − by Swedish networking and telecommunications company Ericsson.

Covering consumer sentiment and perception in 26 markets – including the US, China, South Korea and the UK – the Ericsson ConsumerLab study methodology is representative of 1.3 billion smartphone users globally, including 220 million 5G subscribers.

The report explores key trends behind the adoption, use and perception of consumers with and towards 5G.

According to the report, 5G users spend more time with cloud gaming and augmented reality (AR), while 20% have decreased usage of WiFi on their phones at home and other locations after upgrading to the next-gen technology.

In SA, 5G is yet to become mainstream, as the county’s mobile operators are still waiting to be allocated high-demand spectrum by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA).

The operators have so far switched on 5G services in the big cities, by making use of the temporary spectrum issued by ICASA in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The much-needed high-demand spectrum was supposed to have been auctioned at the end of March, but litigation by Telkom and MTN has seen the process pushed back further.

However, a recent study conducted by local research firm Africa Analysis says although 5G is in its infancy in SA, it could see 11 million subscribers and 43% population coverage in the next four years.

In Ericsson’s report, a key finding reveals that even by the end of 2020, increased awareness of service and value benefits could have resulted in 22% more smartphone users with 5G-ready handsets upgrading to 5G subscriptions.

In addition to reduced WiFi use, the study notes that early adopter 5G users spend an average of two hours more on cloud gaming and one hour more on AR apps per week compared to 4G users.

However, it adds, while 5G users are satisfied with the speed, about 70% are dissatisfied with the availability of innovative services and new apps.

Consumers say they are willing to pay 20% to 30% more for 5G plans bundled with digital service use cases.

COVID-19 lockdowns and movement restrictions mean the vast majority of 5G early adopters’ regular experiences with the technology have been indoors, Ericsson says.

As a result, early adopters indicate that indoor coverage is two times more important than speed or battery life in delivering satisfactory 5G experiences.

“With more time being spent on bandwidth-intensive apps, 5G early adopters in our survey saw a monthly data usage increase of 2.5 times compared to 4G users,” says Ericsson. “While 5G-powered virtual reality (VR) headsets are not commercially available yet, and most usage is on WiFi, 5G users already seem to be spending more time using VR content compared to 4G users.

“Immersive video, which includes AR and VR, already contributes to 20% of total time spent by 5G users on digital services.”

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