It appears that when it comes to 5G, nothing matters more than perception.
A survey by Ericsson’s ConsumerLab has uncovered some intriguing attitudes regarding 5G service quality; revealed some of the increasingly-popular activities among 5G punters; and drawn one or two questionable conclusions.
The Swedish vendor interviewed 49,100 consumers in 37 countries – its largest ever survey – in order to garner opinions that are representative of about 1.7 billion people, including 430 million 5G subscribers.
One of the more eye-catching findings relates to how 5G customers appraise quality of service. According to the survey, the proportion of time a 5G user perceives as being connected to an active 5G signal is now the most accurate way of measuring 5G customer satisfaction.
That’s a problem for operators today, because despite 5G population coverage being greater than 60 percent in most markets, only 33 percent of 5G customers surveyed by Ericsson perceived themselves as being connected to a 5G signal for more than 50 percent of the time. Of those consumers who fall within that 33 percent bracket, 70 percent of reported being satisfied with their 5G service provider.
“Increasing 5G availability for current users could quadruple customer satisfaction,” said Ericsson, in its report. “Perceived availability is a far better metric of consumer satisfaction than extent of 5G population coverage.”
Perception of reality is also relevant to what 5G customers are doing when connected.
Ericsson found that the use of augmented reality (AR) apps by 5G users is two hours per week, which is double what the average 4G user was notching up back in 2020.
“AR and VR usage accounts for 24 percent of the time spent by 5G users on digital services featured in our research. This compares to 15 percent of the time spent by 5G users on these digital services back in 2020,” Ericsson added.
Unsurprisingly, 5G customers are also making greater use of enhanced video services – including 4K streaming and 360-degree video – as well as multiplayer and cloud gaming.
Armed with this information, Ericsson urged telcos to offer tiered service plans tailored for customers that like to use one or more of these types of service, and ensure they have sufficient uplink bandwidth to support a decent AR experience.
“Previously, 5G use cases and traffic demands have been focused on downlink, which is important for applications such as video streaming. But, with 5G driving usage of AR, faster uplink speeds and densification of the 5G network will be key to a great overall immersive user experience,” the vendor said.
Other findings in the survey point to a further 510 million people worldwide who are expected to make the switch to 5G next year, increasing total subscriptions to 1.67 billion. And one of the slightly less-convincing conclusions is that 5G is showing signs of paving the way for the metaverse.
Ericsson’s argument is that 5G users spend more time than 4G users participating in activities that relate to the metaverse, such as playing multiplayer open-world games, buying virtual items, and attending virtual events like concerts. Together, these represent a glide-path to broad metaverse adoption.
It’s a bit like saying everyone who travels by plane will one day be a pilot, and conveniently ignores all the technical complexity that comes with developing a cross-platform virtual environment that manages to offer a sufficiently rich and varied experience so that a majority of people will want to engage with it more than once.
And while Zuck’s having a good go at it, the jury is most definitely still out.
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