With driverless cars, fridges that talk to toasters, stunning immersive reality, and incredible games, the 5G was going to allow anything and the telcos were going to make a lot of money. But the reality is not so clear.
The network that promised not to be “just another G” in Ericsson’s advertising left many customers wondering what exactly they are paying for and has once again been a central theme of the phone industry’s annual gathering, the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2023) which is being held these days in Barcelona.
The organizers of the event assured that the 5G was “unlocking untapped value for all players across the ecosystem” and “redefining how the world connects.”
But the excitement also came with a dose of reality from Christel Heydemann, head of the French network Orange.
Operators are in danger, she said in the MWCbecause “the large network investments of almost 600 billion euros ($639.5 billion) in Europe over the last decade proved difficult to monetize”.
“And consumers always expect to pay less and get more,” he added.
But operators aren’t the only ones who might be regretting their big bet.
Ericsson, which provides equipment for the networks. 5Ghas just laid off 8,500 people after its profits fell.
“The 5G disappointed almost everyone, service providers and consumers, and failed to excite businesses,” said Dario Talmesio of Omdia consulting.
The ghost of 4G
The 5Gas Talmesio explains, was never really a consumer proposition, as it is much more appropriate for enterprise and industrial uses.
But it wasn’t easy to convince telecommunications companies to invest billions just to improve factory and port connectivity, or to help develop high-tech medical services. So the 5G of marketing that labeled everything, even small improvements, as major innovations.
The benefits of 5G remain, however, very unclear to ordinary cell phone users.
In a survey conducted last year, thousands of U.S. consumers said they were interested in the 5Gbut when asked more about what it entailed, they had little notion of the benefits it brought.
Most of the most frequently cited services were already available with 4G, according to this survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers by Israeli software company ironSource.
The results summarize two of the main problems of the 5G: the 4G is good enough for most people, and the terminology of the 5G is, in general, very difficult to understand.
Nevertheless, criticizing the 5G is unthinkable for much of the industry.
In this regard, Ericsson vice president Fredrik Jejdling denied that the poor uptake of the 5G was one of the reasons for the massive layoffs at the company.
Jejdling explained, on the contrary, that the group needed to “adjust” its “investment levels to market demand.”
Ericsson devoted a large space at MWC to 5G innovations and insisted that neither innovation nor research would be compromised.
“It’s a platform for innovation. If you don’t do it, you don’t know what you’re missing out on,” Jejdling asserted.
Frederique Liaigre, who heads Verizon’s business operations in France and other European countries, shares Jejdling’s enthusiasm, and asserts that there are no limits to the potential of the 5G.
Verizon was among the first to offer 5G to its U.S. customers, and Liaigre admits that the commercial side is just getting off the ground.
But he refers to his projects-such as providing a private network of 5G to the port of Southampton in the UK to improve its security and supply chain management-as if they were as attractive as driverless cars or talking toasters.
“The transformative capabilities of this technology are truly incredible,” he assured.
If the average consumer will ever become as excited about the 5G remains to be seen (Europa Press)
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