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Everyone wants to get the word out on 5G. (What’s 5G? Read What Is 5G? for the answer.) For now, as we wait for true 5G networks to launch, it’s mostly about marketing. Thus T-Mobile, which has a stake in how 5G is perceived, did a study to “understand consumer attitudes and perceptions of 5G today.” The company had HarrisX contact 5,009 consumers with internet-enabled devices across 22 major markets during the second week of December of 2018.
The findings show a full 55 percent of respondents believe it’s “very important” to invest in “technological innovation;” 39 percent said it’s only “somewhat important.” The remaining 6 percent (due to rounding, these results don’t always hit 100 percent) apparently are fine with their flip-phones and half-megapixel cameras.
The people who think it’s very or somewhat important are spread across party lines: It’s a big deal for Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters alike. More older respondents (age 45 and up) thought it was important than younger ones did. And apparently, men (63 percent) think tech innovation is more important than the women do (47 percent), so HarrisX obviously didn’t call my parents.
The real nitty-gritty of what T-Mobile probably wanted to know has to do with consumer awareness: Just where does 5G fall in the ranking of various technological marvels of the modern age? It’s not bad — at 57 percent awareness, 5G is third, just behind virtual reality (83 percent — thanks, Pokemon Go!) and artificial intelligence (78 percent). That puts 5G awareness ahead of esoteric terms such as cloud computing, Internet of Things, machine learning, and the ever-buzzy blockchain.
5G awareness is highest in major cities where the big carriers are planning tests, including Orlando, Vegas, Miami, and LA — all are 62 percent aware or higher. (Miami, Charlotte, and Houston show the most excitement about getting 5G, as indicated in the top chart.)
Gender and age for 5G awareness again reveals more men (64 percent) ready for it than woman (50 percent). The age range with the highest awareness was 35 to 44 (61 percent). From users of the big four mobile carriers, Sprint users apparently have the most awareness (59 percent) but even the lowest — T-Mobile customers — was only 56 percent. A full 57 percent of respondents across the board said they’re not only familiar with 5G but that they truly believe it will lead to faster wireless speeds. 43 percent said it will be “significantly better” than 4G/LTE; that number goes up to 75 percent for people who said they’re “very familiar with 5G.”
Probably recalling previous upgrades to the wireless networks, the response to the question, “Do you expect it will be easy or difficult to adopt this technology?” finally raised some red flags. While 43 percent said it’ll be “somewhat easy” for consumers, 25 percent said it’ll be “somewhat difficult.” That will come down mostly to affordability.
Here’s where things get wacky. 29 percent of people said 5G is already here. 35 percent said it’ll hit in 2019. 25 percent said 2020.
No 5G device is widely available yet; all four US carriers are supposed to launch 5G phones this year, and even then, coverage will be very limited for another year or two. Respondents may be confused by the number of technologies currently being called “5G.” Many laypeople call WiFi on the 5-gigahertz band “5G WiFi,” although it’s a totally different technology that has nothing to do with the 5G we’re talking about. And AT&T is busy rebranding its existing 4G network as “5G E,” hoping that you don’t ask about the ‘E’ part.
The top two major tech companies that are pegged as “mind leaders” in 5G are Google at number two and Apple at number one. That’s funny, because Apple is way behind on 5G — it’s expected to release its 5G iPhone a full year later than most other mobile phone manufacturers, in late 2020. Google also doesn’t have much to do with 5G right now. Americans may just think of Apple as the leader in every kind of technology, showing how far uphill the actual 5G leaders are going to have to climb.
You can find all this data and a lot more from T-Mobile and HarrisX at www.5GConsumerIndex.com.
This article originally published at PCMag