The 5 G’s of the 5G Rollout
The fifth generation of mobile networks is here – but just how long will we have to wait? The rollout is well underway, with reports of 5G fluctuating depending on the next operator release. The Financial Times series has provided almost 2,000 articles on 5G since January, providing updates not only of the UK rollout, but some of the problems encountered along the way. The promise of top speed streaming and downloading, as well as reliability are just some of the perks waiting around the corner.
What can we expect in future, what is the media response and how will it impact earned media consumption?
The UK mobile industry has boomed in recent years, with competitors such as Three, Vodafone, EE and O2 launching the 5G network this year. When EE released 5G to the four regional capital cities of the UK in May, as well as Birmingham and Manchester, phone manufacturers were already releasing devices capable of connecting to the 5G network, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7 Pro. Vodafone was next, launching in July with more than twice as many locations available, including Gatwick and Liverpool. Every rollout so far has garnered a favourable spike in media coverage across the UK. New 5G capable handsets, including the Samsung Galaxy Fold have also been great positive influences in the media. A Kantar report on key smartphone trends in Britain and globally was published earlier this month, mentioning how positive media exposure on the latest handsets will help promote products effectively.
The 5G policy maps out the target that most of the UK population will be covered by a 5G signal by 2027. Mobile expert at uSwitch.com Ernest Doku said: “Unless networks improve their coverage in rural areas, the risk is that 5G will make the same mistakes as 4G and predominantly serve the cities at the expense of more rural areas of the country” (3 Oct). Actively managing and mitigating these sector highlights have generated both positive and balanced receptions in the media and no doubt, will continue to do so.
Our TGI consumer data suggests that 75% of UK smartphone users have internet access, and 51.3% of these use their device to access and read news content every week. Younger generations, such as 25-34-year olds, access the internet to consume media more frequently than older generations. The 5G promise of increased speed means this trend of younger age groups accessing media and news content will continue to rise in the future, which is an important point for PR and communications teams. Once 5G handsets are more mainstream and affordable, the likelihood of media consumption via mobile phone will be extraordinary.
For many, the idea of 5G is still a virtual reality: there, but not really. Realistically, many of us won’t be able to connect for years to come, whether because of a new or outstanding phone contract, cost or location. Is the promise of speed worth it? According to 5g.co.uk, we could be looking at between 4 and 40 seconds to download a full high-definition film. These sorts of speeds will allow not just video media, but online print media to hit audiences faster, generating a potential wider audience.
As with all new technology, 5G is a gamble – not only because of the complexity of the smaller range that the network has to offer, but also because it is still unclear whether consumers will want it as soon as possible and which devices they can experience it on. Huawei devices are currently out of the picture. News that the company was banned in the US amid security concerns caused the UK to follow suit – Huawei’s compatible 5G phones remain unreleased. However, Huawei helped develop the 5G network for all the major UK mobile operators, even though the decision to exclude the company from future involvement with the network is yet to be made. News coverage featuring Huawei has had a largely negative impact on the 5G sector.
In conclusion, despite these criticisms of the fifth generation of mobile networks, we can see the possible profits. Not only is the consumer going to potentially benefit from the 5G network, but also businesses and other areas too, including unexpected ones like agriculture. According to the Financial Times website, the new network technology will be fundamental to autonomous cars and smart factories among many more industries that are yet to be named.
It seems we may see 5G where we least expect it – not just on our mobile phones, but across many aspects our everyday lives including how we consume news in the future. Social media news consumption increased by 5% in 2019 according to Ofcom, indicating more UK adults are using social platforms and instant articles to get information. If 5G can provide this quicker, more efficiently, maybe the wait will be worth it after all.
Romy Mitchell is a Media Analyst (Reputation Intelligence) at Kantar. Find out more about our media monitoring and analysis service.