As 5G’s deployment continues to garner momentum, its coverage is spreading across countries and cities faster than many have anticipated. In the US, the roll out has seen unprecedented growth in the face of China – US trade war, and antitrust issues that resulted in the ouster of Huawei, and slowed to great extent, the pace of the deployment.
While there has been significant progress in the roll out, PwC, US 5G Index reports that the real world applications and uses for the average person have been slow to keep up. In its analysis, PwC predicts 60% coverage in the US in the next six months. But the report says the challenge of its growth lies on the availability of the 5G enabled devices, and that less than 2% of devices will be 5G enabled in six months.
However, there is hope that enough 5G devices will be available by the end of the year, according to PwC principal Dan Hays.
He said: “We’ve been tracking the progress on 5G since the initial networks were launched in the US about a year ago and we have seen the coverage for 5G grow significantly over the past six months. It’s gone from a very small fraction of the US having 5G coverage to today, where roughly half of the country is covered with at least one 5G signal.
“Even as the coverage has advanced, there are still relatively few devices that are capable of connecting to these more advanced networks and the sales of those devices are still very weak. Even though we have half the country where 5G is available, less than 1% of end-user devices are really capable of taking advantage of the 5G signal.”
According to the Index, consumers have been slowly responsive to the availability of 5G. In the US, they are only willing to pay about $5 per month more for in-home services or another $4 each month mobile.
The speed and other benefits of 5G are likely going to be experienced first by enterprises before individuals. PwC says companies leveraging networks of Internet of Things (IoT) devices are likely going to embrace the services before others.
The cost of 5G services has been a hurdle between its providers and consumers. With the trade war still in the way, PwC said finding cheap manufacturing that will result in low-cost infrastructure and products will remedy the situation. The whole world relies on China when it comes to cheap infrastructure and low-cost tech products.
“Many people feel like they already pay too much for their mobile services, and we’re seeing that unless the industry makes a very clear and compelling case for 5G, they may be stuck making the investment in the network and not seeing a benefit in terms of revenue and profit,” added Hays.
Another possible barrier to the acceptability of 5G is the availability of 4G networks with speeds close to that of 5G. The Index noted that the use of high frequency spectrum by various internet service providers is yielding almost the same result as 5G.
“At its best, 5G should offer up to 10 times the speed of 4G networks. However, in these early days of 5G, there’s a lot more variability. Some of the networks that use the very high frequency spectrum are achieving these kinds of very high speeds today. However, they tend to be available only in very limited areas and not really very good for truly mobile use. You kind of have to be sitting in one place to take advantage of them.
“To work with a 5G network, your device has to have a compatible set of antennas and a compatible chipset. The chipset in particular has been one of the gating items for the availability of 5G smartphones in particular. Right now, there are several dozen devices that have been announced that will work with 5G networks. However, many of them don’t work with every single operator, so they might just work with one and not all, and many of them are not yet commercially available,” said Hays.
The lack of devices to keep up with 5G roll outs is also widening the interest gap among consumers. The peculiarity of the devices is giving people a reason to stick 4G network that is more device-tolerant.