5G is on the horizon, and the possibilities are endless. Nokia released new research on Wednesday highlighting the outlook for 5G on the enterprise and consumer sides. Both audiences are ready to harness the power of 5G, particularly when it comes to video and fixed wireless access (FWA), but the road to the full capabilities of 5G is only beginning.

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The report was conducted before the outbreak of COVID-19, however, the pandemic only bolsters the need for 5G and its use cases, said Josh Aroner, vice president of marketing for Nokia’s communication service provider (CSP) business.

“We conducted this survey just ahead of the pandemic. In many cases, the way that service providers are looking at 5G is that 5G doesn’t go away because of the pandemic,” Aroner said.

“But, the way that we define it, or the ways in which things like a focus on digitalization or automation, will become more of an emphasis as they look at things like physical distancing or the need to do remote monitoring, or as more of us continue to work remotely,” Aroner added.

5G is becoming more of a reality, with new use cases constantly surfacing. However, deep familiarity with the tech varies, the report found.

Consumer and enterprise familiarity with 5G

Enterprise professionals are very familiar with 5G, while consumers lag behind, the report found. Despite this, consumers are still excited about the prospect of this tech.

“65% of these IT decision makers already have solid awareness of 5G. A third of them are using it today and nearly half, 47% of them, are really starting to plan their 5G deployments,” Aroner said.

More than half (54%) of enterprise respondents said they are waiting for more widespread 5G availability before they make plans, and 30% of enterprise users said they would prefer a better understanding of the value of 5G before adopting a strategy, the report found.

“The only thing that we see holding them back is the view that, ‘We’re just waiting for 5G to become more available,'” Aroner said. “We’re still early on here in the shift here.”

Only half of consumers said they had any level of familiarity with 5G. While familiarity is on the lower end, the majority (80%) of those familiar with 5G find it appealing, compared to only 23% of those who are unfamiliar, the report found.

More than half of smartphone owners said they will likely switch operators if their current provider doesn’t offer them 5G in the next 12 months, indicating consumers do view 5G in a positive light.

“On the consumer side, most of us intuitively or instinctively know we want it, but we still can’t necessarily tell you what it is or what I’m going to get,” Aroner said. “There’s still quite a bit of education to be had. Generally, people view it as ‘I’m getting faster speeds, better quality,’ which is all true, but they haven’t gotten to the point of really understanding all the things you could do.”

Regardless of familiarity, the consumers who have used 5G see the value: Nearly two-thirds of early 5G users said they were highly satisfied with the speeds they experienced, compared to less than half of 4G users.

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Top 5G use cases across the board

Both video and FWA proved to be significant use cases for enterprise users and consumers alike, the report found.

  • Video

“Across the board, video is the killer app for 5G—for enterprises and consumers,” Aroner said. “But what that looks like may be very different from those two audiences.”

For the enterprise, video was popular across verticals and business sizes, with 83% of enterprises finding 5G-enhanced video “compelling,” and 48% citing 5G video monitoring as a near-term opportunity, or possible in the next four years.

The majority (83%) of enterprise respondents found video alerts such as detecting and recognizing who is on premise as a valuable capability for business, according to the research.

“The whole notion of video from a remote control machinery standpoint is appealing, [with] 77% of enterprises interested,” Aroner said. “Video is such a powerful medium for us, and the applicability of being able to use really high-performance, high-quality video for surveillance monitoring and so forth is very compelling for the enterprise.”

Video is incredibly important to consumers also, especially when it comes to communication—a factor that was boosted by the pandemic, Aroner said.

The research found that 90% of consumers rated high-quality, uninterrupted video streams as a “very valuable” aspect of 5G. Some 66% of consumers also cited video capture and streaming applications as appealing, and 69% found video detection and alerting appealing.

5G-enabled video is not just limited to improved video streaming or video chat applications, it is so much more, said Patty Wong, director of market insights for Nokia’s CSP business.

“You could do things like live stream from your son’s soccer game to a bunch of your family members,” Wong said. “Or it could be an ambulance that is taking a CT scan quickly and sending that to the hospital before they even arrive.”

“Those types of intense video applications, or even combining analytics so that you could do real-time monitoring and see that grandma fell in the home and it sends a proactive alert,” Wong said. “Right now, it’s all more reactive and based on Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have recognition or anything. It’s more advanced video applications than just streaming Netflix.”

  • Fixed wireless access

“Fixed wireless access is something that’s appealing to both enterprises and consumers,” Aroner said. “This is a wireless replacement essentially for your broadband connectivity.”

FWA was the top use case for small and midsize businesses, with 73% showing a strong interest in FWA if cost and performance match their existing wired broadband service, the report found.

“If you look at medium-sized enterprises, one of the interesting things that came up is that fixed wireless access becomes a really nice way to mitigate risk,” Aroner said. “They look at it as a secondary source of connectivity that prevents any type of risks that might be out there. Considering how dependent we are on connectivity these days, they’re always looking for risk mitigation.”

On the consumer side, FWA ranked as the top use case, with 76% of consumers overall regarding FWA as the most appealing application. Some 66% of consumers said they would subscribe to 5G FWA if it cost the same as their current broadband service and delivered the same or better performance.

Currently, 41% of consumers said they only have one option of a single broadband provider, indicating a significant lack of choice, the report found.

“With the current environment that we’re in, we’ve been again reminded of the criticality of connectivity. In many regards, it’s an instigator for innovation, a catalyst for innovation here,” Aroner said.

“If you look at the consumer experience, any minute now my kids will be going on their machines and this phone quality could become quite impacted,” he added.

Wong emphasized the value of fixed wireless when it comes to widespread connectivity across the globe.

“In the context of where we are today, if you think about the digital divide that we even have in our country, there are metropolitan areas and deserts where people don’t have access to broadband for their kids’ remote schooling,” Wong said.

“But, there’s been studies that have shown that lots of people have smartphones,” Wong noted. “In the future, could fixed wireless access be an easily deployable mechanism or method to allow underserved populations quick access to broadband?”

Some 45% of consumers also cited connected car concepts appealing, with navigation and safety capabilities unlocked by 5G as most valuable. That number jumps to 73% of vehicle owners, the research found.

“These cycles take time,” Aroner said. “We already did see the cycle accelerate pre-pandemic, where we were having rollouts in US cities all over and devices are still coming. We have to remember that the 5G standards are still in finalization.”

“We will continue to see our customers eager to roll this out. And given the current circumstances, [providers] are not slowing down what they’re doing there,” Aroner said, “We don’t see any real change in timeframes, but let’s also realize this is a several year process of coming out into the market, and it also varies by country significantly.”

For more, check out 3 ways consumers are having new experiences during COVID-19 on TechRepublic.

Image: iStockphoto/wooyaa