As it sits around waiting for regulatory approval to close on its $26 billion acquisition of rival Sprint, T-Mobile US seems to have come up with a fine idea to fill the time: find out what American citizens really think about 5G by launching a new quarterly study on the new technology and its wider ramifications.
The U.S. carrier also made use of the opportunity to take a pot shot at rivals AT&T and Verizon, which may have beaten the self-styled “Un-carrier” to the first 5G post but have already come in for criticism over their early launches — not least because neither of these networks are really 5G. In addition, reports are already surfacing that AT&T’s fledgling 5G network is so far proving to be a disappointing experience in terms of speeds.
T-Mobile has tested 5G in its 600 MHz spectrum, has said it plans to launch 5G using the 600 MHz and 28 GHz mmWave spectrum bands in 2019, and is targeting 2020 for full nationwide 5G coverage. CEO John Legere is now boasting that the operator is bothering to take the time to ask people what they want from 5G, “while the other guys are talking about ‘their’ 5G networks and what ‘they’ will do with them.”
The Un-carrier got together with research firm HarrisX to create the HarrisX/T-Mobile 5G Consumer Index and now plans to produce the study on a quarterly basis. The inaugural report, based on surveys by HarrisX of the opinions of over 5,000 internet-connected U.S. adults between December 7-12, 2018, already appears to be claiming that “more than half of Americans [57 percent] are already aware of 5G”.
What’s more, the report says the respondents are excited about new innovations 5G will bring; believe 5G will create new jobs; and expect 5G to have an impact on their personal lives. Dritan Nesho, chief researcher and CEO of HarrisX, proclaimed that “expectations are high, with over 2 in 3 Americans believing 5G will become a reality by 2020, which will require significant investment by the public and private sector to get there.”
Of course, studies such as these should always be read with a healthy dollop of skepticism. Indeed, among my own set of internet-connected friends and peers, those outside the telecoms industry may have registered that 5G developments are in play, but are probably fairly hazy about what it all means. Simply asking if someone has “heard” of 5G says very little, to all intents and purposes — although it’s a start.
Worth noting is that the consumer index also found that awareness of virtual reality and artificial intelligence was higher than 5G. It was also interesting to see that one in three of those aware of 5G say it’s already available, while two in three expect it to be widely available before 2020. Take heed, 5G vendors and carriers!