What can be done to boost 5G adoption in Ireland?

7 Sep 2023

Image: © kinwun/Stock.adobe.com

A BearingPoint survey suggests Irish consumers have a high understanding of 5G capabilities, but the adoption of this technology isn’t as strong as it could be.

5G offers various benefits over its predecessors, but the adoption of this technology hasn’t been equal worldwide.

While 5G deployments began in 2018, it can be argued that most regions – including Europe – only saw this technology in 2019. The adoption has been positive overall, with estimates that 5G subscriptions worldwide will reach just under 5bn by 2026, with roughly 1bn reached by the end of last year.

5G now appears to be available across most of Europe, but the satisfaction and awareness among users varies significantly across the bloc. A recent study by management and tech consultancy BearingPoint suggests Ireland has one of the highest satisfaction rates with their telecommunication networks, just behind the Netherlands.

This survey also suggests that Ireland’s understanding of 5G is amongst the highest in Europe, with users showing high awareness of the benefits this technology can bring across different categories, such as streaming, video calls and network performance.

Steven Edge is a senior business development manager with BearingPoint who handles communications, media and entertainment. He told SiliconRepublic.com that there are likely a range of factors that have made Irish consumers more aware of 5G than other European countries.

One example Edge referenced is how active Ireland’s main mobile network providers have been in rolling out 5G across Ireland, which means most Irish mobile subscribers “will have seen or heard of the associated marketing campaigns”.

Last month, Eir claimed its ultrafast 5G is available across 567 towns and cities in Ireland, while earlier this year, the company brought 5G internet to Kerry’s Black Valley, home to one of Ireland’s most remote communities.

Edge also noted that there are many global players that have “large-scale operations and headquarter facilities” in Ireland.

“This contributes to the profile of Ireland having many ‘tech-savvy’ consumers,” Edge said. “In the survey we also see some factors such as Ireland having the highest percentage of respondents working from home and highest percentage using their smartphones as hotspots.

“It is likely there is a correlation here to these respondents being aware of the options available, including 5G, for higher speed connectivity to facilitate these working arrangements.”

Awareness does not equal adoption

Despite the high level of awareness and satisfaction seen among Irish consumers in the survey, there was a significant difference when it came to the number of respondents who actually use 5G, both in Ireland and other European countries.

BearingPoint said roughly 84pc of survey respondents were aware of 5G, but only 27pc said they use 5G on their smartphone.

There are various potential factors for this difference, with one suggestion being the looming recession many countries and consumers face.

“There are many slightly older smartphone models that don’t support 5G,” Edge said. “And in the recent period of rising costs and inflation, we have seen a slowdown in the rate of consumers upgrading their smartphones to newer models.

“There are also instances where new similar smartphone models are available with a slightly lower cost option that doesn’t support 5G and cost-conscious customers can opt for these models.”

Edge also said that – unlike earlier network technologies – providers appear to be focused on providing coverage to cities and towns rather than nationwide coverage, which can lead to some consumers not having 5G access in their home area.

This appears to be more of an issue for larger countries compared to Ireland, which has a smaller landmass and population. For example, the percentage of German respondents that were satisfied with their fixed and mobile networks was less than 15pc, while Ireland’s was more than 70pc.

Also, while 5G has clear benefits over 4G, Edge said the predecessor technology still offers a “satisfactory user experience” overall, which means many users may not perceive a need to upgrade.

“We have also highlighted in our survey that mobile operators do not tend to market use-case specific offerings that target the advanced capabilities that 5G can offer,” Edge said.

“So consumers are not necessarily aware that opting for a 5G service may benefit the specific use-cases that are most important to them and which can provide real improvements to their experience of, for example gaming or video streaming.”

The path to 5G adoption

In order to improve the adoption of 5G, BearingPoint lists a number of potential measures that can be taken around making users aware of the technology’s benefits and specific use-cases.

“Specifically highlighting the advantages that 5G can bring to certain use-cases will help to inform consumers on when and why they should consider upgrading to these services, a little along the lines of the improved viewing experience that first HD and now UHD4K video streaming services bring to consumers,” Edge said.

“One example is to specifically market 5G fixed wireless access as a competitive offering to fixed fibre broadband. We are seeing this for example in the US and it is actually one of the prime drivers of 5G adoption there.”

The report also suggests that Irish consumers in particular seem willing to pay a premium for certain services such as video streaming and gaming. However, BearingPoint suggests that the general level of customer satisfaction in network performance needs to improve.

“In order to convince users that they should rely to an even greater extent on the latest mobile technologies, they first need to feel a strong level of confidence that mobile networks can consistently meet their expectations,” Edge said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic