From 5G smartphones to companies using 5G solutions for better management and scaling up to healthcare industries implementing 5G technology to improve efficiency and save lives, 5G seems to be in almost every industry to penetrate. But while home 5G internet is portrayed as a panacea, especially for Americans who live in rural areas with limited broadband options, it still hasn’t caught on with only hundreds of thousands of subscribers using the service compared to the hundreds of millions of 5G cell phones Customers.
This begs the question of why 5G is currently not popular for home internet use – especially in rural areas, which could benefit most from it – and what challenges it faces to adopt. We spoke to experts to find out.
How widespread is the 5G home internet at the moment?
T-Mobile launched 5G Home Internet in April of this year, making 30 million households eligible for the service (but not all have made the switch yet). It then expanded its availability to 51 cities and towns in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. “While fixed wireless Internet is not yet available to every American, we anticipate adding 500,000 homes to Internet access by the end of 2021,” said Kaley Gagnon, vice president of emerging products at T-Mobile.
A Verizon spokesman told Digital Trends that it saw 55,000 net subscribers in July, August and September. The company reached 150,000 total subscribers via a landline connection at the end of the third quarter, the spokesman said.
However, some experts like Jay Akin, CEO of Mushroom Networks, a network company that makes advanced routers and devices, believe that getting an accurate number of 5G internet users at home can be difficult as network operators avoid lowering their subscriber numbers broken down in terms of LTE versus -5G for fixed wireless access). “The majority of those subscribers are LTE and not yet 5G,” he said, adding that “5G home internet subscribers across the United States are less than 100,000 people among all carriers”.
Those aren’t promising numbers, especially when compared to the slow pace of adoption of 5G carriers, which covers 75% of the US on paper but only spend 25% online actually connected to 5G.
Four major barriers to 5G home internet
Despite the widespread availability of 5G devices and an increasing number of discussions about applications of 5G technology, the data shows that the home 5G internet has not yet gained momentum. Infrastructural, economic and socio-cultural factors continue to be the main obstacles to the spread of the 5G home internet.
One of the main concerns of many users is performance, especially now that everything (school, work, socializing, and even healthcare) has gone online.
“According to the 2021 EY Digital Home Survey, 57% of respondents said reliability is more important than speed and that reliability is the number one factor when choosing a broadband provider,” said EY’s Vincent Douin. “When it comes to choosing a broadband provider, reliability has overtaken price considerations, and 51% of respondents said they would be concerned about poor broadband performance if they switched provider,” he added.
This can be a significant barrier to the spread of 5G, as such fluctuations in performance can be acceptable for cellphone use, but not when the entire household relies on internet access for home use and home office, Akin said.
Another problem is availability, say experts. “The early adoption of 5G was aimed at cities, so it won’t reach the people who really need an improved internet: rural dwellers,” said Mark Rapley, operations manager at KWIC Internet, an internet service provider for residential and business customers. Focusing on narrowing the rural-urban gap is key, he said.
The price of home 5G internet could also make people rethink their choices. Current options cost around $ 50 to $ 100 per month, which may or may not be affordable for all American households, even those in rural areas with limited broadband and expensive satellite internet.
Another major obstacle is consumer awareness. Lots of people just don’t know enough about 5G home internet to make the switch, Douin told Digital Trends. “The knowledge of consumers about 5G has not improved significantly since last year, less than half (45%) are not yet aware of the advantages and functions. It is critical for 5G providers to break through the complex jargon and focus on communicating tangible benefits in order to assert their claim to the digital home, ”he said.
So 5G home internet can still become mainstream
Despite the numerous barriers to making 5G home internet mainstream, there are potential solutions that make it likely that more American households will switch to 5G home internet in the years to come.
Some obstacles like availability and high price are time-based issues. As technology improves and access increases, 5G internet will be available in the home at a much cheaper price, giving households more options to seriously consider switching.
For other obstacles, technology-based solutions should be considered, Akin said. “One example is broadband bonding, the technology that can combine [two] Internet services to create a better internet connection. So when a broadband bonded home router has two of the 5G internet connections, it practically compensates for the variation in performance and offers a significantly better end-user experience, ”he said. “Similarly, an existing wired Internet speed can be expanded with a faster (but less reliable) 5G home Internet service to create a combined service that is both fast and reliable.”
Even if the 5G home internet seems inaccessible and somewhat inconsistent at the moment, the connectivity landscape could change drastically in the coming years to make the 5G home internet mainstream or to introduce something even better.