As 5G uptake in many parts of the world has now passed from early into mass adoption, Ericsson ConsumerLab — leading purveyors of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers — claims that users are taking the first steps into the metaverse.
“The transition from immersive services to metaverse experiences is now underway,” the telecom company states in its report, “5G: The next wave.”
The report, which tracks more than 49,000 consumers in 37 countries, is said to be representative of the opinions of 1.7 billion consumers worldwide.
Among the findings: 5G users continue to be more engaged with immersive digital services than 4G users and there are now twice as many 5G users engaging with at least three digital services compared to 2020.
The biggest increase over the past two years in time spent by 5G users has been on AR and enhanced video such as HD/4K multi-view video or 360-degree video.
The threshold for passing early adoption into mass adoption is 15% penetration, Ericsson states — a figure that 5G rollouts have now surpassed.
What’s more, inflationary headwinds don’t seem to deter many consumers from paying a premium for handsets and subscriptions, provided 5G lives up to its billing.
Notably, new adopters are more likely to be looking for widespread availability of 5G coverage before signing up.
Per the report, some 30% (510 million) express an intention to upgrade to 5G subscription in 2023. Intention to upgrade is likely to vary across markets based on market maturity and inflation concerns, and high growth markets will drive the majority of sign-ups.
That equates to around 1.67 billion 5G subscriptions globally by the end of next year.
The report found that 5G users are already spending two hours more per week on AR apps than 4G users, compared to one hour more per week on AR than 4G users back in 2020.
5G users also believe that by 2025, two extra hours of video content will be consumed weekly on mobile devices, of which one and a half hours will be on mixed-reality glasses rather than smartphones.
Globally, six in 10 smartphone users believe 5G is essential for the metaverse to be realized. Half of 5G consumers who already use XR related services believe AR apps will move from smartphones to XR headsets within two years.
Jasmeet Singh Sethi, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: “The shows that the next wave of potential 5G users have different expectations from the technology compared to early adopters. Overall, consumers see engaging with 5G as an essential part of their future lifestyles.
“It is interesting to note that 5G is emerging as an important enabler for early adopters to embrace metaverse-related services, such as socializing, playing and buying digital items in interactive 3D virtual gaming platforms.”
For service providers, Ericsson says its research underlines the need to respond to different levels of market maturity, and to cater to the expectations of the next wave of mainstream consumers in markets where 5G levels have gone beyond 15% of the population.
Increasing 5G availability for current users could quadruple customer satisfaction, the report advises, even while “perceived availability” is a far better metric of consumer satisfaction than extent of 5G population coverage.