A report on the UK take-up of 5G telecom services from analysts at Deloitte says that since the launch of 5G back in 2019 only about 5 per cent of consumers have adopted 5G plans.
More worrying, says Deloitte, is that over 50 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know the difference between 4G and 5G.
When asked what the most important feature was when choosing a smartphone, battery life was the biggest draw. Meanwhile, 5G capabilities came near the bottom of the list, below ease of use, storage capacity, camera, screen size and quality, brand, data-privacy features, processor speed and a phone’s expected lifespan. Only water resistance and use of recycled materials were less popular features than 5G.
BT, which owns the mobile network EE, said it currently has about 1.5 million customers using 5G (of about 16 million customers)
Demand from industrial customers has also been lower than expected, according to Ashish Gupta, chief operating officer of BT Enterprise. “There are lots of people who understand the concept of 5G but haven’t quite yet figured out how it would benefit their business,” he said. “There are certain use cases that are being trialled and there are lots of companies in the market at the moment, but the models around how best you commercially make money from it are still being tested.” He added: “….at the moment it is not scaling up at the rate which we’d all like”.
In the view of investment bank Exane/BNPP, they say there is a sense of inevitability to the above study, having written in depth on the challenges of monetising 5G investments particularly in the UK market.
The bank adds: “The UK market is a difficult market. In our 2019 report on the UK market we discussed how the smallest of the four MNO’s, ‘Three’ had a dominant position in 5G spectrum, and no incentive to drive prices up for 5G given their desire to gain more scale and more customers.”
“More broadly,” says the bank, “[the Deloitte report] shows the importance of market structure in the telecom sector, and highlights why were prefer exposure to markets like Finland, Netherlands and Germany, which are tighter oligopolies with operators with similar incentives and business models.”