Executives Don’t Believe the Hype Around 5G, According to Accenture Study

The survey suggests a better sales pitch is needed from the telecom industry

Accenture found only 37 percent of execs expect "revolutionary" change from 5G. Getty Images
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Most business executives are not convinced that the next generation of wireless service will bring the transformational change its promoters are promising, according to a new Accenture survey of 1,800 company leaders around the world.

The consultancy found that fewer than two in five (37 percent) of the mid-sized to large business C-suite members expect 5G to bring a “revolutionary” shift in the speed and capacity of wireless networks, while a little more than half (53 percent) say there are “very few” capabilities the technology will allow that aren’t already possible with current 4G service.

Those somewhat muted expectations stand in contrast to industry marketing around the shift, which boasts that 5G will eventually run up to 100 times faster than current networks and give rise to a host of new IoT markets, ranging from car-to-car communication to remote surgery. But in order to realize that vision, carriers and telecom tech companies will need to convince business leaders that it’s worth the substantial investment needed.

In fact, 36 percent of the execs surveyed across 12 different industries cited up-front investment as the No. 1 perceived barrier to 5G adoption, followed by security (32 percent) and employee buy-in (29 percent). The technical infrastructure alone required for 5G could cost the telecoms and adjacent businesses an estimated $200 billion to build, according to Bloomberg.

Anders Lindblad, managing director and communications and media industry lead for Europe at Accenture, said the findings should signal to carriers that a new pitch might be needed for the business world, one that focuses more on the services 5G can offer, especially in terms of edge computing or the decentralization of processing power to makes software on internet-connected device quicker and more powerful.

“It describes a gap in what is the expected outcome and value from the enterprises and the current understanding from [communications service providers (CSPs)] of how to approach the market with the 5G-enabled services,” Lindblad said in an email to Adweek. “It might be interesting for CSPs to adjust the future offerings to be more service-based and maybe even more edge-related to respond to some of the findings highlighted.”

Around three in five (60 percent) of the Accenture respondents say that telecom operators don’t necessarily understand the business challenges unique to their respective industries, suggesting possible communication challenges for the roughly 72 percent of respondents who say they need help conceiving of new use cases and possibilities for 5G. Nevertheless, around 40 percent expressed interest in partnering with the telecom industry to make the best possible use of network improvements.

As the owners and operators of the 5G infrastructure, carriers have the opportunity to serve as a steward for all of the various uses and services it will unlock for other businesses, according to Lindblad. Verizon has already been laying the groundwork to cast itself in this central hub role as it shutters its various media ambitions, but the industry may have more work to do when it comes to outreach to potential partners.

“5G creates an opportunity for CSPs to become a ‘connected industry orchestrator’ at the core of an ecosystem that enables them to leverage, monetize and scale key control points for both themselves and the ecosystem partners,” Lindblad said. “There is a clear demand for 5G, but the revolutionary impact it can have on the enterprise is lacking.”

Accenture tapped Loudhouse Research to facilitate the survey, which spanned participants in the United States, Europe, Japan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Australia through last December and this January.

@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.