5G adoption is extending beyond the early adopters and into the mainstream market, according to a new Ericsson Consumer Lab study, that surveyed more than 49,000 consumers in 37 countries. With 5G penetration rates moving beyond 15%, Ericsson said that the technology is now becoming mainstream. And when that happens, operators need to be prepared because the next wave of users are likely to be less forgiving and more value conscious than early adopters.  

The study said that the next wave of 5G adopters will have different expectations. For example, these 5G users will want to see significant improvements in coverage as well as network performance. By contrast, early 5G adopters primarily wanted rich, new 5G experiences and premium handset devices.

For wireless operators, the Ericsson study has some very good news because it appears that 5G adoption is inflation resilient. According to the study, at least 510 million consumers across 37 markets are likely to upgrade to 5G in 2023 despite rising inflation and increasing living costs. In addition, among those existing 5G users that were queried, the study found that one-quarter said they plan to upgrade to a higher priced plan in the next 12 months.  

In fact, many of those surveyed view 5G mobile broadband as part of their essential spending category. According to the study, 76% of smartphone users said that they would not consider reducing their monthly mobile broadband spending.

Getting Immersed in 5G

Existing 5G users are using their 5G smartphones differently than the 4G devices. The Ericsson study found that 5G users tend to spend more time on “metaverse-related” services such as socializing, playing and buying digital items in interactive 3D virtual gaming platforms. In fact, over the past two years, time spent on augmented reality apps by 5G users has doubled to two hours per week.

But when it comes to paying for 5G, consumers want different types of monetization models. The Ericsson survey said that 60% of consumers surveyed expect 5G to move beyond being charged based upon how much data they use or how fast the data speeds are. 

Instead, 25% of respondents said they want 5G plans to be priced and tiered based upon speed and usage. In addition, they want the option of being able to pay for on-demand performance boosts when needed or have 5G embedded within certain apps. For example, a 5G gamer might pay more to have a low-latency gaming session.

Many existing 5G consumers view 5G as a stepping stone to the metaverse. The Ericsson survey said that 5G users believe that by 2025 two extra hours of video content will be consumed weekly on mobile devices and 1.5 hours will be consumed while using mixed-reality glasses rather than a smartphone.

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