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What consumers think about 5G in 2019: Part I


February 21, 2019 | In March 2018, iGR fielded a survey of U.S. consumers to understand their awareness of 5G, their expectations and, importantly, their willingness to pay for 5G services. We published the findings in a series of Opinion pieces last year. Well, it is time for an update. How have consumers’ views of 5G changed in the last year?

In January 2019, we fielded the same survey questions to 1,000 consumers and the results were balanced by age.  The survey is a close representation of the U.S. public. Obviously, a survey of this size kicks out a lot of data, more than can be presented in a few newsletters :)  If you would like more detail from the survey, please contact us (iain@igr-inc.com).

OK, so how AWARE are U.S. consumers of 5G today and how has this changed in the last year? Overall, in January 2019, 42 percent said they were very aware or aware of 5G compared to 28 percent in March 2018. No explanation of the term ‘5G’ was given; we just asked them how aware they were.

Not surprisingly, the number who were unaware or very unaware dropped from 49 percent (March 2018) to 34 percent this year.

A few demographics are interesting: 

  • In 2018, slightly more men than women said they were aware of 5G but the difference was very small. In 2019, far more men were aware of 5G than women – 53 percent to 35 percent. Thus, it appears that much of the growth in awareness is due to men paying more attention to the wireless industry’s messaging than women.
  • Perhaps it is no surprise that younger consumers are more likely to be aware of 5G than older generations. This result was the same in 2018 and 2019.
  • There were significant differences by age group and these changed in the last year.  For example, the highest awareness in 2018 wa in the 25 - 29 years and 30 - 34 years age groups, followed by 18 - 24 year olds. In 2019, the highest awareness was in the 40 - 44 years age group, followed by 30 - 34 and 35 - 39. So, much of the increase in awareness has come in the older age groups. 5G messaging is clearly not just working with the millennials!
  • Between Apple iOS and Android users, there was a slightly higher awareness of 5G among the Apple group, but it was only a few percentage points difference. This was true in both 2018 and 2019.
  • In both years, there was a bigger difference between those on an unlimited data usage rate plan and those on limited plans – about five percent higher awareness of 5G for those on the unlimited plans.

Last year, I was surprised consumer awareness was so high.  To have nearly 30 percent of the population aware of 5G with no marketing and no commercial service available was impressive. Now, nearly a year later, awareness has increased further, especially among men and the older age groups (although not that old). So, the good news is that the industry has raised awareness, but the bad news is that it is likely setting unrealistic expectations and over-hyping the technology.

In Part II of this series, we will look at consumer expectations for 5G and how they have shifted over the last year. We’ll look at what consumers think 5G is going to deliver and if those expectations are realistic.  Stay tuned!


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