U.K. consumers and businesses are aware of 5G and looking forward to it, but they’re a bit fuzzy on exactly what the newest generation of wireless technology is supposed to do for them and don’t yet see upgrading as a top priority.

A new survey by network benchmarking and analysis company Global Wireless Solutions points to a a “lack of understanding”  about 5G which the company says “could be dampening excitement and fueling misconceptions.” GWS polled both 2,000 U.K. adults and more than 200 enterprise organizations of sizes from 100 employees to more than 5,000, to get a sense of both the consumer and business attitudes toward 5G.

 “The results indicate a level of indifference around 5G and a lack of urgency from both businesses and consumers when it comes to taking advantage of the emerging network, suggesting that communication around the diversity and power of 5G-enabled applications is not getting through to the public,” GWS found.

 The good news: Awareness of 5G is strong, even if it is in early days of deployment in the U.K. More than half of the businesses polled reported that 5G is “already important to their organization,” with another 27% saying it will be so in the future. In addition, 26% of businesses said they wanted to see more 5G offerings from their mobile network operator. On the consumer side, 76% of surveyed adults said they plan on getting a 5G phone and most (53%) expecting that to happen within the next three years.

But GWS also found that businesses are keeping an eye on 5G, but “it seems that they are in no great hurry for the benefits that a fully deployed network will bring.” Asked for their top 3 mobile priorities in the next 12 months, only 20% said that one of those involved providing 5G applications and services. Comparatively, 46% said that their goals were consistent voice call accessibility and quality, and 45% were focused on better remote working connectivity.

And not many people are complaining about not having 5G — only about 9% of companies said they have fielded employee complaints about not having 5G, with far more saying that their workforce is concerned about basic connectivity: 39% of companies said they see internal complaints about mobile network coverage issues, and 28% reported complaints about dropped calls.  

GWS said that among U.K. consumers, “a lack of enthusiasm for the new network seems apparent.” While 19% said that they expected that the speed of 5G would change the way they use their mobile device, 67% of those surveyed were content to keep using 4G until their MNO automatically transferred them to a 5G network. Asked about whether they believe 5G will improve the quality of their mobile service, the results were evenly split between those who believed it would, and those who did not know. About 15% of respondents also indicated that they do not ever intend to purchase a 5G-capable phone.

“There appears to be ongoing uncertainty amongst businesses and their employees as to what 5G really is and what it could mean for leveling up business capabilities, as well as confusion from the wider public as to whether 5G has actually arrived yet and in what capacity,” said Dr. Paul Carter, CEO of GWS. “These sentiments show there is a significant need for a stronger, clearer communications strategy around the huge potential of 5G – particularly at a time when we have become more reliant on network connectivity than ever before.Now is a crucial time for all key stakeholders in the rollout of 5G – including authorities, operators and consumer-facing groups – to reach out to the public to quell common misunderstandings and take a more active role in educating the nation on the tangible, positive ways that 5G will impact people and the communities they engage in.

“We need to go beyond the fairly limited scope of existing messages around increases in speed to communicate the extent of what 5G could truly mean for both businesses and consumers alike,” Carter continued. “We need to be giving people much more regular, multi-layered messages around why 5G is not just a step-up in terms of a single factor like network speed, but a real step-change in how we will conduct our lives in terms of well-being, productivity, transportation, lifestyle, availability and costs of resources and services, and much more.”

GWS’ polling was conducted online in late January and early February, with partners YouGov and Vanson Bourne. The consumer survey involved 2,117 adults representative of the U.K. population, of which 1,913 had a smartphone. The business survey had a sample size of 200 businesses and the resulting figures were weighted and are representative of all U.K. businesses, GWS noted. 

“The findings suggest that while many in the UK are aware of 5G, more effort is required from operators and other key stakeholders to educate the nation on the wide range of benefits that can be expected once the 5G network is fully deployed across the country,” GWS concluded.

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