Enabling consumers to use excess mobile data as currency and reassuring them about data usage are key steps operators can take to establish a foundation for 5G adoption, Ericsson announced.

A survey of 800 million consumers, touted by the company as the biggest 5G consumer expectation study to date, was presented in a report called Towards a 5G Consumer Future. The research found 60 per cent of smartphone users struggle with “the complexity of mobile data plans” and “considerable misalignment between what users buy and what they use.”

With only three in ten smartphone users satisfied with the way their operator presents plans online, “the digital telecom experience is neither simple nor effortless”, the company stated, noting this is an area operators must focus on to gain customer trust as they prepare for a 5G future.

Consumers want operators to innovate, evolve and personalise data plans, Ericsson said. It also revealed consumers are not counting on unlimited data plans, but are looking for “a sense of the unlimited”. Peace of mind is the main motivator behind buying unlimited data plans and the company urged operators “to explore alternative ways to offer this feeling of freedom.”

Ericsson found the average smartphone user is left with 31GB of unused mobile data each year and as much as 1.5TB over their lifetime. Almost half (40 per cent) of consumers would like to use this excess as currency and expect to be able to save, trade or gift unused data.

Faster broadband speeds and fair wireless contracts are considered more important than the data buckets currently dominating the market.

Jasmeet Sethi, senior advisor at Ericsson Consumer & Industry Lab, said: “Our latest study does not look at a consumer view on 5G in isolation, but rather uncovers unmet consumer needs that must be fulfilled by operators on the way to 5G. From offering an effortless buying experience to focusing on real network performance, consumers are demanding changes they would like to see already made today.”

5G expectations
The idea of 5G services appeals to 76 per cent of smartphone users, with 44 per cent willing to pay for 5G.

Consumers expect most 5G services to go mainstream within three to four years of the launch and over 50 per cent expect to be using 5G-enriched services within two years of the launch. Users also expect to pay a single fee for each 5G service or connected device rather than the data consumed.

The report also revealed consumers want operators to avoid “baseless marketing slogans” and focus on “real network experience, increasing the honesty of their marketing.” Today, only 4 per cent trust operators’ advertising and network performance statistics.