5G, between disappointment and reality

5Gnetworks are being victims of the words of their own promoters and at MWC 2023 experts debate whether “it is a disappointment or not” in these times

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With driverless cars, fridges that talk to toasters, stunning immersive reality, and awesome games, 5G was going to enable anything and telcos were going to make big bucks. 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 exactly what they are paying for and has once again been a central topic of the annual meeting of the telephony industry, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) . 2023)  that is celebrated these days in Barcelona.

The event organizers claimed that 5G was “unleashing 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 jeopardy, he said at MWC , because “the large network investments of almost 600 billion euros ($639.5 billion) in Europe in the last decade have proven 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 gamble.

Ericsson, which provides equipment for 5G networks , has just laid off 8,500 people after its profits fell .

” 5G has disappointed almost everyone, service providers and consumers, and failed to excite companies,” said Dario Talmesio of the consultancy Omdia.

The ghost of 4G

5G , as Talmesio explains, was never really a proposition for consumers, as it is much more appropriate for business and industrial uses .

But it wasn’t easy convincing telecommunications companies to invest billions just to improve the connectivity of factories and ports, or to help develop high-tech medical services. So 5G was surrounded by marketing that branded everything, even small improvements, as major innovations.

The benefits of 5G remain, however, very unclear to ordinary cell phone users.

In a survey last year, thousands of American consumers said they were interested in 5G , but when asked more about what it entailed, they had little idea of ​​the benefits it brought.

Most of the most cited services were already available with 4G , according to this survey of 10,000 American consumers by Israeli software company ironSource.

The results summarize two of the main problems with 5G : 4G is good enough for most people, and 5G terminology is generally very difficult to understand.

Unlimited

Despite everything, criticizing 5G is unthinkable for much of the industry.

In this sense, the vice president of Ericsson, Fredrik Jejdling, denied that the poor acceptance of 5G was one of the reasons for the massive layoffs in the company.

Instead, Jejdling explained that the group needed to “adjust” its “investment levels to market demand.”

Ericsson dedicated 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,” Jejdling said.

Frederique Liaigre, who heads Verizon’s business operations in France and other European countries, shares Jejdling’s enthusiasm, saying there are no limits to the potential of 5G .

Verizon was among the first to offer 5G to its customers in the United States, and Liaigre admits that the business aspect is just getting started.

But he regards his projects – such as providing a private 5G network to the UK port of Southampton to improve its security and supply chain management – as if they were as attractive as self-driving cars or talking toasters. .

“The transformative capabilities of this technology are truly incredible,” he said.

Whether the average consumer will ever be as excited about 5G remains to be seen.