Who really uses 5G? And who cares?

More than half of the Irish public do not understand the benefits of 5G, according to the latest Deloitte Ireland Digital Consumer Trends Report.

With just one in 10 using 5G – the majority of people aged 18-24 (17%) – more than half (54%) of consumers said that they can’t tell the difference between 4G and 5G.

A new Deloitte Ireland’s Digital Consumer Trends Report looked at consumers’ attitudes towards 5G.

“While the concept of 5G has been talked about for some time, the benefits are still not clear to consumers”

Although 61% of people think they will have better network connectivity (faster, more reliable) on 5G than on 4G, consumer adoption is slow and there is complacency towards switching.

15% of respondents say they would switch as soon as it’s available in their region, 13% would switch if they hear good things about it, 18% say they would switch if was the standard offering and there was no alternative and 30% noted they would probably switch eventually.

When it comes to network offerings, over a third (36%) said they would change network operator based on 5G coverage.

We need a healthy debate about 5G

There has also been ongoing debate around health concerns with 5G and while people are less concerned about the health risks associated with 5G than they were in 2020 (16% vs 20%), 38% still feel that they “don’t know” if there are health risks associated.

The Deloitte Digital Consumer Trends report is an annual survey of 1,000 consumers in Ireland, aged between 18 and 75, which explores their digital usage and attitudes towards technology.

“While the concept of 5G has been talked about for some time, the benefits are still not clear to consumers,” said John Kehoe, audit partner at Deloitte in Ireland. “Education on these benefits and dispelling the myths around health concerns will be essential as the rollout picks up, particularly as work moves to a hybrid model, because the current wired broadband network is not built for a sustainable work from home scenario. The opportunity here is for 5G to complement the wired broadband network.

“The government’s Digital Ireland Framework published earlier this month set out a target to have 5G coverage in all populated areas by 2030. Collaboration of key stakeholders will be a critical factor in enabling successful deployment across the country. There needs to be a significant investment and capital injection to support the rollout, from cell towers to power consumption tracking. Until this investment is clear, it may be some time until consumers can fully reap the benefits of 5G including improved health and wellbeing, enhanced entertainment and smarter, connected cities.”

Practicalities driving purchasing decisions

Aside from price, battery life is the top feature that influences consumers’ purchasing decision on phones, followed by storage capacity and camera functionality and quality. Ease of use features as the second most important factor for the 55-64 and 65-75 age cohorts (39% and 43% respectively). 5G only ranks number 10 on the list of priorities and is of similar importance, or lack thereof, for all age brackets with the 45-54 cohort caring the most about it (13%) and 55-64 caring the least (6%).

“Currently, most devices in Ireland are not 5G compatible which is naturally a key barrier to adoption. However, as 5G isn’t high on the agenda for consumers, it further highlights the need for education on the benefits,”  Kehoe said..

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.