The 5G user experience is disappointing – and who’s fault is that?

5G user experience
Image by Ricardo_Alves_Fotografo | Bigstockphoto

The 5G user experience was always going to disappoint. You cannot hype a technology that much without falling short of expectations. Users were expecting a slew of new, innovative, cool services. And just got faster speeds.

The poor 5G user experience once again shines a spotlight on the role of telcos vs digital service providers.

What, you have to ask yourself, were the users expecting from telcos and 5G if not super-fast mobile (it would have been nice to figure out they wanted it indoors, but we will gloss over that for now).

If truth be told, the 5G user experience – the consumer one – was always going to depend on those digital service providers. And they obviously have ideas for innovation in all sorts of areas because companies like Apple are investing billions in 5G.

The initial poor 5G user experience actually shows that the digital innovators were even later to the party than the telcos.


No one should be surprised by the Ericsson Labs findings. It happens every time there is a ‘step-change’ in technology. The telcos do the heavy lifting, investing in networks when no one really knows where the profitable services will come from while fighting through the vendor hype that promises a digital nirvana.

And when it disappoints, the telcos get the blame.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not shy about bashing telcos when telcos deserve a bashing but for a respected vendor to make such a noise about a disappointing 5G user experience at this early stage in the game is harsh, to say the least.

If you judge the initial 5G user experience by another metric, the enterprise one, you would have a different story.

Even if early use cases, mainly involving private 5G networks, are in their infancy, the potential is very clear. The flexibility, speed and control that a 5G network can bring to factories, buildings, even cities are game-changing.

The only real applications that you can envisage at this point, when it comes to a consumer 5G user experience, are games and some virtual reality, which probably means more immersive games and not a lot more.

It goes back to the survey that ETIS conducted recently. Telcos do not (with a few exceptions) see themselves as the windswept developers of cool new games. They see themselves as partners and leaders in various digital ecosystems in grown-up arenas such as healthcare and new levels of efficiency, which will lead towards a better, greener world.

Why would you begin to criticise the network builders for not launching a better gaming environment when their focus is on building a better, well, environment.

While it is true that the 5G user experience was comprehensively over-hyped, to the point it was doomed to disappoint from the outset, it is not the telcos who have done anything wrong.

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