Here’s what consumers actually want from 5G: change

Image credit: Julia Tim /

ITEM: Consumers may not know what the heck 5G is, but they know what they want with future mobile services: simplicity, peace of mind, personalized plans, value for money and no 5G marketing crap. Oh, and they want unused gigabytes to count as money.

Those are the main findings of a massive consumer survey from Ericsson that solicited the views of 14,000 iPhone and Android smartphone users aged between 15 and 65 across Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US.

According to Jasmeet Sethi, senior advisor at Ericsson Consumer & Industry Lab, the study doesn’t focus on consumer views of 5G specifically so much as it examines what consumers don’t like about current mobile services that they’d like to see change as long as mobile operators are busy evolving their networks to 5G anyway.

In other words: “Fast speeds, low latency, blah blah blah, okay sure but here’s what we really want …”

And here are the six main things consumers said they want from mobile services:

1. Make service plans really easy to buy

According to the survey, only three in 10 smartphone users are satisfied with the way their operator presents plans online, while six in 10 said they struggle with the complexity of mobile data plans. Consequently, says Ericsson, “there is considerable misalignment between what they buy and what they use … The digital telecom experience is neither simple nor effortless.” 

2. If you can’t give us unlimited data, make it feel unlimited

Consumers naturally love unlimited data, but the next best thing – and what customers actually want – is not having to worry about how much data they use. As such, Ericsson advises cellcos to think up ways to give customers peace of mind about how much data they’re using.

3. Never mind the data buckets

Survey respondents rated faster data speeds and fair wireless contracts as more important than data buckets. Consumers would much rather cellcos come up with innovative, personalized bundles that suit their needs.

4. No 5OMG Future Utopia crap

Those promo videos that vendors and operators like to roll at industry conference keynotes about how 5G will enable a utopian sci-fi VR hologram wonderland where literally everything is connected with no black spots and powered by AI that lives to benevolently serve humans who clearly can afford all this technology? Yeah, don’t do that. Consumers don’t want 5G marketing hype – and by the way, only 4% of them trust operators’ advertising and network performance statistics. So keep it real.

5. Consumers want more for their 5G buck

Consumers may not know exactly what 5G is, but a decent number of them are willing to pay for it – provided it delivers more than 4G. And we don’t mean just faster data speeds. According to the survey, 76% of respondents are interested in 5G, and 44% are willing to pay for it. But over one-third said that they expect 5G to deliver capabilities beyond the usual data-speed boost, such as better battery life and support for IoT devices. Interestingly, many consumers also want 5G to enable a transition away from paying for data by the gigabyte towards something easier to understand, like paying a single fee for each 5G plan or device.

6. Don’t waste unused gigabytes

Speaking of gigabytes, if cellcos insist on keeping the current usage-based system in place, many consumers want more value from the gigabytes they don’t use up. And there’s actually a lot of them – Ericsson says that the average smartphone user has 31 gigabytes of unused mobile data left over per year, which translates to 65 hours of video calls, 517 hours of music streaming, or binge-watch six seasons of a TV show like Game of Thrones. Some cellcos allow for data rollover in such cases, but many don’t. Two in five consumers surveyed favor an alternative – let leftover gigabytes double as currency for other services, and give consumers the ability save, trade or gift unused data.

The full report is here if you want it. The fundamental takeaway is that mobile consumers aren’t that happy with the service plans being offered to them now. If cellcos are going to push another G at them, they expect something better than what they have now – and not just a fatter pipe.


  1. Despite having read the relevant section in the Ericsson report 18 times, I’m struggling to understand the difference between ‘unlimited plans’ and ‘plans which provide a sense of unlimited’…

    • I’ll ask, but my take is that it’s like what some cellcos do now – show customers how much data they already use per month, assign them the appropriate data cap and tell them, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and you won’t go over the cap.” Obviously with 5G they’d have to adjust that with the assumption that fabulous new 5G apps will result in higher data usage. Or, regulations permitting, they can zero-rate video, etc and so on.

  2. So that’s like a diner which offers me unlimited coffee refills, but only up to, say, two. But that’s fine, because I never want more than two – right? And in fairness, I might be happy with that, but once I’d twigged that the limit was two I would never feel that the offer was unlimited. And I would certainly never describe it to anyone else that way. In fact, once I’d twigged that the unlimited offer was in fact limited to two, I’d probably feel like I was being shafted, even if I never actually wanted more than two….

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.