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Global 5G Survey Paints a Rosy Picture

March 9, 2021
A survey of telecom-carrier decision makers revealed that 99% of those polled predict 5G end users will benefit within five years; nearly half of carriers surveyed predict value for users within one year.

Industry watchers, myself included, tend to be a bit conservative regarding the arrival of 5G’s full impact on the telecom industry and our day-to-day lives. But a new global survey of decision makers from telecom carriers commissioned by Molex begs to differ.

When it comes to the arrival of 5G as a significant transformation force, the feeling is, by and large, optimistic. More than half of those surveyed expect to deliver substantial end-user benefits within two to five years, while 47% reported that users already are seeing value or will within one year.

Conducted by Dimensional Research in February, the survey polled over 200 qualified participants in engineering, product, and R&D roles at network operators or mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

Among other key findings, 92% expect to achieve 5G business goals within five years. 5G consumer devices will be the first generators of significant new revenue (43%), followed by industrial and IIoT (35%) and fixed wireless access (33%). Unsurprisingly, all respondents report issues with 5G deployment, with the top three challenges named as spectrum issues (41%), lack of consumer use cases (31%), and regulations (30%).

What are the key technology or industry changes that would propel network operators toward their business goals? Answers included reduced costs of 5G infrastructure and network equipment (41%); innovation in enabling technologies, including semiconductors and sensors (31%); availability of new types of connected devices (26%); and stable and consistent government regulations (22%).

Only 60% of survey participants expect a “killer app” or transformative use case to drive 5G adoption. Augmented reality, gaming, and smart-home applications topped the list of primary consumer devices while robotics, logistics, and factories were the leading 5G-enabled use cases for industrial and IIoT.

Among primary use cases for fixed wireless access, rural home access topped the list at 53%, followed by city and suburban home access (45%) and remote industrial infrastructure access (41%). In addition, autonomous driving, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, and vehicle telematics will lead the way in automotive use cases. Remote patient monitoring, medical wearables, and remote surgery were identified as drivers for the medical market.

While only 25% of respondents believe that 5G is getting it done for consumers today, nearly all expect substantial benefits within five years. More than half say customers in Japan and Korea are seeing those benefits today, while China is viewed as a 5G giant in waiting. Meanwhile, 75% say it will take two to five years for U.S. consumers to reap 5G’s rewards nationwide.

Small cell (48%), mmWave (46%), and private networks (46%) were identified as the top three technologies/topologies to play critical roles in enabling 5G advantages. While no consensus was reached on which technology would be first to impact users, mmWave emerged as the long-term leader, garnering 47% of the votes, followed by sub-6 (27%) and wide-area low power (26%).