The news: Major US telecoms are trying to rebound from a turbulent year of 5G adoption hijacked by the pandemic, according to CNBC.
After years of investment and starry-eyed claims, 2020 was supposed to mark “the year of 5G.” That didn’t happen as advertised. Instead, airports, sports stadiums, music venues, and other densely packed large areas most immediately expected to benefit from 5G sat empty and unused as Covid-19 ran rampant.
During the height of the pandemic, consumer appetite for expanded 5G networks paled in comparison to the sudden surge in high-speed broadband, which is best suited to remote work. This led AT&T EVP of Partnerships & 5G Ecosystem Development David Christopher to tell CNBC that the company “almost lost [the] year.”
Now, though, as restrictions ease and large spaces fill back up, providers are looking to ramp up advertising and sell users on new 5G use cases. “People are excited to get out of their homes and experience 5G in the wild,” Christopher said. “We will dramatize use cases that matter to customers.”
The problem: Despite the billions telecoms have spent in infrastructure investment and several years of dogged advertising, most US consumers are still unaware of the benefits of 5G.
Why this could backfire: Uncertainty surrounding new Covid-19 variants and the looming specter of new lockdown orders threaten to complicate near-term, large-scale 5G rollouts, especially in areas with large crowds. These uncertainties could favor T-Mobile, whose hefty mid-band spectrum holdings reduce the investment necessary to expand its networks.