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5G networks are steadily being rolled out across the UK, but their penetration cannot be described as anywhere near mainstream. However, research from UK5G, the national innovation network dedicated to accelerating the adoption of 5G in the UK, has made the surprising find that 70% of businesses in the country are now using 5G or planning deployments.
UK5G is a collective of private and public sector organisations, working together to accelerate the adoption of 5G across the United Kingdom. Led by Cambridge Wireless, KTN and TM Forum, and funded by DCMS, UK5G acts as a forum for learning and building productive partnerships.
The research was conducted by Coleman Parkes, and aimed to reach 300 IT decision makers via an online survey in April. A representative number of respondents came from every region in the UK and were equally split across four verticals: creative industries, manufacturing, transport and logistics, and health and social care. Respondents’ businesses had on average 590 employees and annual revenue of £261m. Job titles included IT director, chief information security officer, head of IT, chief information officer and chief technology officer.
The standout was that while barriers to adoption still exist, with cost of infrastructure emerging as the biggest to overcome, businesses are looking to build a commercial case for 5G that fully realises its benefits. Almost three-quarters (73%) of the businesses surveyed are confident they understand the benefits of 5G, while 70% have a plan for how they will use it to achieve competitive advantage.
This said, UK5G was evidence of the maturation of 5G innovation driven by a growing understanding of the outcomes the technology offers. Two-thirds (66%) believe 5G will make a positive contribution to their corporate sustainability efforts as well as help improve customer experience (65%).
And as 5G is approaching the stage of early market adoption in the UK, the survey revealed that there are still challenges preventing businesses from investing or maximising its potential. Over three in five (63%) businesses cited the complexity and cost of infrastructure, installation and integration as the main challenge to overcome. As well as the cost of deployment, there is still an issue with organisations not fully understanding how to deploy 5G services, which over half (53%) say is an inhibitor.
Yet despite these challenges, 45% of businesses were planning to make investments in 5G by 2023. Aligned to this, the survey showed business leaders demonstrating an active curiosity in the best practices which will pave the way for a successful deployment. Almost two-thirds (66%) said industry-specific benefits of 5G would incentivise them to invest. However, by their own admission, technology leaders need education. Almost three in five (58%) require further guidance on how to integrate 5G with existing infrastructure, while over half (51%) would see value in best practice guides to assist with their deployment.
Generally, business leaders were seeking greater understanding of the potential benefits 5G can bring their organisations (58%), as well as practical advice on how to plan their deployments (53%). Organisations also wanted to see further insight being shared by the technology and telecoms industry, with 46% saying they will turn to big tech and 40% looking to mobile network operators (MNOs) to improve their grasp on how to deploy 5G in a way that is commercially viable.
“5G, along with other forms of advanced communications, has the potential to transform business models, generate new revenue streams by unleashing the internet of things, and give organisations new insights through data that enable them to improve the service they provide for customers,” said UK5G head Bob Driver. “This encouraging research shows the appetite of business in sectors such as the creative industries, transport and logistics, manufacturing, and health and social care, to embrace the opportunities 5G can bring.
“The UK has an established ecosystem of support for businesses looking to deploy 5G in a way that brings them competitive advantage and return on investment. UK5G brings together a host of expertise across the technology and telecoms industries, and works with a broad spectrum of organisations to help them navigate 5G and support them in overcoming the hurdles to deployment.”