Tech and business decision makers have doubts amid 5G hype

An Accenture survey finds that business and technology decisionmakers believe in 5G to a degree, but aren't sold on the return on investment or use cases yet.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

At Mobile World Congress, there's a barrage of 5G news about new front-end devices such as foldable phones, networking gear and services for everything from the enterprise to smart city. But the executives with the spending power are skeptical about what 5G will mean -- if anything -- to their businesses.

An Accenture survey of 1,800 executives from mid-sized and large businesses found that more than half of them say there is little that 5G will do that they cannot already do with 4G networks. In other words, execs are taking a wait-and-see approach on 5G and how it will transform their businesses

Meanwhile, 37 percent of executives expect 5G to bring a huge bump in speed and capacity.

Accenture found that 5G will have importance competitively as it covers more of the population. Indeed, 60 percent of executives think 5G will cover all of the population by year 2022. And 46 percent of executives think 5G will have a significant impact on speed.

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From an enterprise technology perspective, there are good reasons why executives aren't on the 5G hype bandwagon yet. Among the key issues:

  • Devices aren't in the field en masse yet.
  • Use cases for the future of work and productivity aren't baked.
  • Fixed broadband may be the best use case for businesses.
  • 5G networks aren't built and it's unclear how data plans will be priced for anyone.
  • Upfront investment is a barrier to 5G cited by 36 percent of respondents. 

On the bright side, Accenture found 72 percent of executives said they need help figuring out use cases for 5G. Telecom carriers will be a key part of that use case mix, but 60 percent of executives said communications services firms lack knowledge about their industries. What's unclear is what telecom provider will have enough focus on business needs. Many have been diverted into media and advertising, two businesses outside their core expertise. 

By industry, 53 percent of energy sector respondents said 5G will have a big impact on their reach. The government sector has the lowest awareness of 5G with 59 percent of respondents believing it will be 10 times faster than 4G.

Executives may be skeptical about 5G, but the build out is accelerating. 

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