Imagine this: shoppers walking by their favourite stores get pinged on their phones with promos. They pop inside, try on clothes virtually, and walk out without physically checking out. Elsewhere, factory workers check for defects using eyewear fitted with augmented reality technology that can give them information at the tap of a finger. And, in the wake of a natural disaster, first responders dispatch drones to affected areas to quickly assess damage and pinpoint recovery efforts.
This year, those visions and others will move closer to reality, as digital connections continue to become broader and faster. The fifth generation of wireless technology promises lightning-fast speed, incredibly low latency, and the capacity to carry massive numbers of connections simultaneously. The imminent arrival of 5G is creating a buzz in both the tech industry and the wider world.
Black Dot Research carried out a survey to understand how consumers feel about their internet services and what they perceive about this next generation of wireless technology. The survey compiled answers from 128 respondents, comprising a mix of ages, genders, ethnicities and education backgrounds to represent the Singapore population.
52% of respondents were familiar with the term “5G” without prompting, with familiarity skewing towards males. Once defined, the idea of 5G technology is appealing to nearly everyone (98% across all age segments); 65% of consumers find 5G “very” appealing. Interest peaks among 18–34-year-olds (69% “very appealing”).
5G refers to the next generation of wireless network technology. it is expected to bring significantly faster speeds, shorter delays/buffering, and improved reliability.
600 TIMES FASTER THAN TYPICAL 4G SPEEDS
Speed is a consumer’s top priority. Faster internet (92%), both at home and outside, is the primary reason why respondents would pay more for 5G. Benefits having to do with video playback specifically hold more weight among internet users. More would pay a premium for 5G if it provided “high quality video steaming without buffering delay” (74%).
However, most consumers are not in a rush to get the new technology — in a scenario where a new mobile device would be required to access 5G, less than half (40%) said they would make an immediate switch even if they are not yet eligible for a handset upgrade.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD (OF APPS)
Respondents told us the most exciting capability in 5G is enhanced mobile internet service, with faster access ranking first, followed by extra high-speed connections to stream videos in 4K/8K quality (62%). 45% of respondents also reacted positively to engaging with smart home applications (i.e. home monitoring) and digital healthcare (i.e. remote diagnostics). They are less enthused about innovations they perceive as less relevant to their daily lives , such as drone delivery (25%) and hologram video calling (21%).
CREATING A DIGITAL DIVERSION WITH DATA
However, respondents appear to have one big fear: 5G could be a harbinger of hacking and greater loss of privacy. More than half (68%) the surveyed population expressed concerns that 5G could make more personal data vulnerable to hacking. Further, half reported there could be a higher potential for devices to track behaviour.
There are also some concerns towards the rise of wireless tech pulling people away from traditional social settings and public spaces that are usually associated with large and diverse core networks. 43% of respondents said 5G could increase social isolation. And, with more time spent staring at our devices, 48% of respondents believe better and faster internet connection could create and exacerbate sedentary lifestyles.
COVID-19’S TIMELY DISRUPTION
The demand for 5G is accelerating in some industries. Transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare (including physical, mental and elderly care) emerged as top priority sectors in the 5G rollout. And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest-growing mobile app categories have been those related to the crisis — remote working, education/e-learning and wellness.
With work from home arrangements becoming the norm, it is perhaps natural that nearly three quarters of respondents (73%) deem maintaining a high quality of service to be very important. They recognize that 5G — via fixed wireless access or enhanced mobile broadband — could improve speeds and allow them to be more productive while working remotely. 74% considered this to be very important.
Beyond the home office, 62% of respondents said 5G-enabled robots could have helped during the COVID-19 crisis, with tasks like measuring temperature or disinfecting spaces. This cuts down interaction between infectious patients for medical staff, thus reducing the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, 56% said immersive education using VR and AR technology could help children turn screen time into valuable learning time. A smaller proportion (42%) expect service providers to expand their content and media offerings.
INFLUENCING CLIMATIC CHANGES
On sharing their personal data with businesses and corporations, 41% across gender lines and generations were agreeable to do so with those in the environmental sector. 5G may allow us to modulate consumption in so many places overlooked, which could eventually make our society much more energy efficient.
On the other hand, at least a quarter of respondents expressed discomfort in sharing personal data with companies that are directly involved in creating consumer products (entertainment; 29%, manufacturing; 27%). To them, there must be a clear link between the data collected, and the enhancements delivered.
A WIRELESS REVOLUTION IS COMING
Today, consumers still power the internet. Online video accounts for some 70% of the world’s internet traffic, with only small differences across regions. By 2030, we can expect that share to exceed 80%. By some estimates, the world will consume 20 times more data than it does today, with much of this growth driven by new users, more time spent watching video, and higher-definition content. The world will soon be more connected — setting the stage for both innovation and disruption along the way.