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A consumer ‘tipping point’ for 5G this year

With $100bn invested in 5G networks from the major carriers, new data reveals that 2022 is the year that the advanced technology has finally arrived for much of the country, with consumer access numbers surging and coverage reaching previously uncovered areas. As well as 5G coverage levels increasing, the data also reveals that throughputs on 5G capable devices have almost doubled since 2020.

The research, conducted by mobile insights consulting firm Global Wireless Solutions, found that the number of consumers who accessed 5G networks in the US grew from just 43% in 2021 to 61% in 2022. This means that 42% more consumers accessed 5G networks in 2022 than in 2021, a significant increase compared to the single digit rise in 5G access of just 7% the year before (2020-2021).

GWS’ nationwide study into 5G access habits combines data from independent consumer polling1, as well as insights based on over 50 million daily data points gathered and weighted from the Global Wireless Solutions’ opt-in OneMeasure Consumer Panel (OMCP) of US adult smartphone users: capable of providing a 360-degree view of consumer behaviour, choices, and satisfaction2.

The data illustrates that 5G coverage has grown over the last two years and now reaches 83% of consumers across urban areas, an increase of more than 35% from 2020 – 2022. While impressive, this growth has been dwarfed by the explosion in coverage outside of urban areas, which has grown to 76% in suburban areas (nearly double 2020 coverage rates) and 65% in rural areas (more than doubling the coverage in 2020). This reflects a closing digital divide as more areas gain access to the technology around the country.

No longer a generational divide
As the network is more readily available across the country, GWS’ consumer research also reveals that every age group is now accessing 5G networks at higher rates, with sharp jumps in 2022 and access among older generations now nearing the 50% mark. Gen Z, those aged between 18-24 years old, saw their access rates rise from 50% in 2021 to 68% in 2022, while those aged over 55 saw an almost twofold increase from 25% to 46% over the same time period.

The widespread expansion of both 5G coverage and access has also been coupled with increased excitement for the technology and its rollout. 61% of consumers who had bought a new phone since 2021 knowingly purchased one with 5G access, and nearly a third purchased a phone because of its ability to access 5G networks.

When awake, a third of the day on your 5G phone
As well as purchasing more 5G capable devices, consumers with 5G are also spending more time on those devices – perhaps due to improvements in throughputs and access to apps and services that 5G brings. GWS’ OMCP panel test data shows that consumers with 5G smartphones saw their average minutes of daily use reach 312 per day, which means people are spending 33% of their waking day on devices. This is 37 minutes higher than those using older devices and equates to a whopping nine days more of mobile usage a year for those with 5G devices than those without. Of those consumers with 5G devices, most time is being spent on social media, gaming and lifestyle apps.

Paul Carter, CEO, Global Wireless Solutions, commented: “It’s clear from our data that 5G has not only arrived, but it is now well and truly part of the fabric of our everyday lives. While there is still work to be done to ensure every inch of the country can access the network, it is encouraging to see significant improvements in previously uncovered areas and among various age groups. The evolution of advanced network technology has happened at an incredible speed, empowering new services and applications and pushing us into the eve of the metaverse. Less than ten years ago, we were excitedly publishing data about consumers accessing Mbps throughputs in the single digits. Fast forward to recent years, the introduction of 5G alongside 4G in today’s network, has resulted in a staggering twentyfold growth in average throughputs. This is truly revolutionary for consumers and businesses. But it’s really just a milestone as networks are now shifting into an even higher gear in terms of 5G connectivity – all of which should translate into continued benefits for consumers and businesses alike.” GWSolutions

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