Why 5G Adoption is Taking its Time
By TOI Staff February 7, 2024 Update on : February 7, 2024
The new and improved 5G has been here since 2019, yet its rollout has been sluggish in many regions. This is because there are notable differences between each generation of cellular network, including 4G and 5G. Here are the main reasons why 5G adoption is taking longer to go mainstream than previous iterations.
The Benefits of 5G
When 4G was first introduced, it boasted significant speed, security and range advantages over 3G. 5G comes with a similar proposition, enabling internet speeds up to 100x that of 4G. Latency is much faster, and best used for Internet of Things (IoT) technology and other types of machine-to-machine interactions.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest benefit to consumers comes from faster internet and download speeds. The internet has become very important for work, communication, and entertainment, which all require faster speeds to deliver bigger and better experiences to users. Today, that includes social media uploads, watching streams on services like Netflix, or playing blackjack online at Paddy Power Games. If online entertainment is going to become more sophisticated in the future, consumers will need to crunch more data using better hardware and more importantly, the latest tech standards.
While 5G represents a significant leap towards a digital future, its main selling point for consumers is still its faster internet speeds. Other stated benefits like IoT, machine communication, VR, and edge computing are relatively niche industry concerns that don’t yet apply to the average consumer.
5G’s Ambitious Pitfalls
5G’s lauded smart home interconnectivity may have been too ambitious for consumers. While smart homes are convenient, fewer British consumers use multiple smart devices in the home on a regular basis. That may impact adoption when prompted to spend more for 5G plans.
The main drivers of smart home tech adoption are smart TVs and smart speakers, most notably Amazon’s Alexa and its competitors. Tracking smart homes can be difficult since data aggregators classify them differently. For example, some decide that owning one smart speaker creates a smart home despite lacking other components that are interconnected, which is where 5G shines. Other researchers require two or more devices instead, operated from a hub (the smart speaker or a phone app).
Hive research reported by The Mirror states that three-quarters of UK homes have some kind of smart device. However, when broken down, 54% of households used one smart speaker. The second largest cohort, at 21%, used smart meters and thermostats. Those figures will improve with time, but this gap in demand is just one issue with the 5G rollout.
Unlike 4G, 5G doesn’t have better range over its predecessor. The mid-band spectrum that 5G operates at may be a data-carrying workhorse, but it also covers less distance with current towers. Its signals are also more vulnerable to obstruction, from things like trees, buildings and even the natural topology of the land. Old 4G towers can’t be used for 5G, without filling in the gaps with new towers, and even then, rural areas suffer due to nearby forestry and mountains. Spectrum space isn’t freely available, either, but governments have been auctioning space away in recent years.
UK #5G #spectrum auction results for 700MHz & remaining 3.4GHz band out remarkably quickly (& with very consistent pricing):— Dean Bubley (@disruptivedean) March 17, 2021
£1.4bn raised from the 4 main existing natnl MNOs
One notable element is BT’s low cost of £4m for 700MHz supplemental downlinkhttps://t.co/EH1rhHAhhd
These infrastructural concerns have made the 5G rollout expensive, though investment in the new standard will yield greater benefits in the future. 6G is already on the way, so 5G providers want to expedite the rollout so that they can profit from this standard before moving on to the next. This is an ongoing phenomenon – you can find more about 5G and IoT in our Tech & Gadgets section, including future updates about 5G and eventually 6G adoption.