NPD Survey: Two Out of Three Consumers Interested in Buying 5G Smart Phone

Two out of three consumers are interested in purchasing a 5G smart phone, according to a report from the NPD Group.

Based on the report findings, iOS users showed higher levels of interest (40% extremely or very interested) than Android users (33% extremely or very interested).

While 5G technology has not yet been widely adopted, the majority of U.S. consumers were aware of 5G and the promise of super-fast data transmissions that enable superior multimedia streaming and enhanced gaming experiences on mobile devices, according to the survey. The latest Mobile Connectivity Report from NPD’s Connected Intelligence found nine out of 10 consumers were aware of 5G networks; however, only 18% had heard of and understand the difference between the 5G network band types such as mid-band or high-band (Millimeter Wave) currently available in the United States.

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Generally, Android users had a higher level of awareness of the varieties of 5G networks currently available, according to NPD. In fact, 45% of Android users compared to 40% of iOS users were aware that there are different 5G network options.

“5G-enabled Android devices have been available to consumers, which may explain their increased awareness of 5G flavors, while iOS users have not yet had the opportunity to upgrade to 5G. Given the stronger interest from iOS users, a 5G-enabled iPhone could help drive adoption” said Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence. “On the other hand, the current premature state of 5G networks in terms of speed and coverage will continue to be a barrier in the mass adoption of 5G smartphones. 5G smartphone volumes are poised to increase as networks improve and 5G smartphone prices gradually decrease.”

Sling TV Lost 94,000 Subs in Q4

Dish Network Feb. 19 disclosed that its online TV platform — Sling TV — lost 94,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019. That compared to a gain of 47,000 subs in the previous-year period. It was the online TV platform’s first subscriber loss ever.

Sling TV, which ushered in the standalone online pay-TV market in 2015, ended the fiscal period with 2.59 million subs, up from 2.42 million subs a year ago. At the same time, online TV continues to stagnate as an antidote to subscription video-on-demand and ad-supported VOD.

High-profile YouTube TV just topped 2 million subs, while Disney-owned Hulu with Live TV recently surpassed Sling with 2.7 million subs. Sony’s PlayStation Vue shuttered with reportedly about 500,000 subs.

Meanwhile, Dish’s legacy satellite TV operations finished the year with almost 9.4 million subs — down more than 500,000 subs from the end of 2018. For the quarter, Dish lost a combined 194,000 subs when combined with Sling. That was a significant improvement from the 334,000 combined subs lost in the previous-year quarter.

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Regardless, 2020 finds Dish focusing on a new business: a nationwide 5G wireless network. As part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Dish established an agreement with the Department of Justice mandating it would provide nationwide 5G wireless coverage from 20% to 70% of the country’s population based on each of four spectrum bands.

Since 2008, Dish says it has invested more than $11 billion acquiring wireless spectrum licenses and related assets. These licenses are subject to certain interim and final build-out requirements, as well as renewal requirements with the federal government.

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ABI: 2020 Will Be the Year of Direct-to-Consumer Video, Not 8K TV

With the pending arrival of NBC Universal’s Peacock streaming service and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, 2020 represents a major step toward an over-the-top video future where more content goes direct-to-consumer, reaching 900 million subscriptions worldwide, according to new data from ABI Research.

The research firm contends more consumers will be moving away from the traditional pay-TV bundle, while content access becomes more fragmented and consumers are presented with a growing list of distribution options.

“The ability to pick and choose which channels of content best fit [one’s] needs will only become increasingly more important,” Michael Inouye, video and cloud services principal analyst, said in a statement.

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The growing penchant among content owners to DTC is creating a more challenging market for “virtual multichannel video programming distributors” (vMVPDs). As a result, ABI said subscriber bases in some of the services have slowed, if not declined. The arrival of more DTC services in 2020 will further fragment the content landscape, making it an increasingly crowded space as more services vie for consumers’ content budgets.

Separately, the firm says rollout of next-generation 5G networks will accelerate. Analyst Khin Sandi Lynn said implementation of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) will be great news for consumers. 5G FWA garners high interest from operators to replace last-mile fiber connectivity for residential broadband services.

“This allows greater service coverage and improved network delivery for customers served,” Lynn said.

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While there are still barriers to adoption, similar to traditional 5G (infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming to scale), many other operators and equipment vendors have already been trialing 5G FWA deployment across different regions, according to Lynn.

“Qualcomm’s recent announcement of 5G FWA partnerships, with more than 30 OEMs and ongoing spectrum acquisitions by operators indicates that the ecosystem is getting ready to speed up the rate of deployment,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Lynn said 8K rollout will remain largely industry hype.

“Announcements of 8K televisions by major vendors earlier in 2019 attracted much attention and raised many of questions within the industry,” Lynn said. “The fact is, 8K content is not available and the price of 8K TV sets are exorbitant. The transition from high definition to 4K will continue in 2020 with very limited 8K shipments — less than 1 million worldwide.”

More Than 40% of U.S. Households Interested in 5G

More than 33% of U.S. broadband households cite some level of familiarity with 5G and more than 40% of U.S. broadband households are interested in 5G, according to new research from Parks Associates.

The report Technology Market Assessment: 5G Network Services examines several aspects of 5G, including the condition of the mobile market, consumer sentiments toward 5G services and products, service availability, use cases, and competition. It explores the impact of 5G on fixed broadband, wireless services, and includes a five-year forecast for 5G and other mobile data services.

“More than half of U.S. broadband households are unfamiliar with 5G, despite aggressive marketing from mobile service providers,” said Craig Leslie, senior research analyst with Parks Associates. “Limited service availability is impacting consumer awareness; however, once the technology is explained to them, almost half are interested in replacing their fixed-line internet service with 5G home services.”

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Limited 5G availability also means that it will not replace 4G LTE or fixed services anytime soon, the firm predicts.

“With spotty coverage, providers will need to run 4G in parallel with 5G services so there is ‘fallback’ connectivity for areas lacking coverage,” according to the firm.

Providers see the need to offer 5G services, though, as their availability is a significant influencer in service provider selection, even if consumers are unwilling to pay more for 5G, according to Parks.

“Beyond higher speed, consumers are failing to see the value of 5G over their current subscriptions — only 13% of smartphone users are willing to pay higher subscriptions fees for 5G mobile services,” Leslie said. “Operators will need to increase consumer understanding through better communicating 5G use cases and benefits in order to convince them to upgrade services.”

Additional research findings include 31% of U.S. broadband households consider 5G availability to be very important when choosing a new mobile service provider and 20% of U.S. broadband households purchased a smartphone in the first quarter of 2019, down from 40% in the first quarter of 2016.

AT&T Inks New Tower Agreement for 5G, Wireless Distribution

With more than 160 million wireless subscribers and big 5G aspirations, AT&T needs towers to distribute its network of communication and entertainment properties.

The telecom and American Tower Corporation Sept. 3 announced the signing of a new long-term agreement designed to streamline wireless network deployments on American Tower’s U.S. sites, enhancing AT&T’s deployment of 5G and other next generation technology across the U.S.

“This is essential for executing on both our 5G and FirstNet [public safety] network builds,” JR Wilson, VP of tower strategy and roaming, AT&T, said in a statement.

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The new agreement includes a focus on keeping up with booming mobile data usage while improving capacity and coverage across the entire country, especially in under-served rural areas.

“This agreement provides for an extended mutually rewarding strategic relationship, and we’re excited to help AT&T deliver the next generation of wireless technology to consumers, businesses and first responders quickly and efficiently,” added Steve Vondran, president of the U.S. Tower Division of American Tower Corp.

Studios Reportedly Back Private Sector 5G Spectrum Allocation

Next-generation 5G wireless technology continues to get a lot of attention (and hype) — notably as an enhanced distribution channel for mobile video entertainment.

Mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to increase from 28 exabytes monthly this year to 77 exabytes monthly by 2022, according to Statista. 5G is expected to add $2.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to The NPD Group. So too has government concern surrounding the security and allocation of increasingly coveted (and finite) spectrum (or megahertz) required to deliver 5G data.

The FCC reportedly is considering offering 5G wireless services through a government-backed network using existing and Department of Defense spectrum, an idea that would include repurposing current commercial bandwidth.

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This isn’t sitting well with some regulators, notably Federal Communications Commission board member Michael O’Reilly, a longtime champion of market-driven initiatives over government intervention/regulation.

“To call this [government 5G network] effort a trial balloon is insulting to balloons, as all the ideas mentioned have far less consistency than balloons, and more closely resemble a child’s bubbles,” O’Reilly wrote in a blog post last month.

Enter the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a lobbying group representing satellite operators it says represent “100%” of the C-band services currently provided in the United States.

The group sent the FCC a proposal it claims would “quickly clear” C-band spectrum and would pave the way toward the United States maintaining equilibrium with China and other countries in 5G wireless services.

The CBA advocates streamlining the allocation process of 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum to 18-to-36 months after the FCC finalizes repurposing satellite’s C-band spectrum for 5G service.

Specifically, the group says satellite operators would cover all costs to clear spectrum and to implement operations in the upper 300 MHz of the band.

“Compared to FCC-run spectrum auctions, which historically have taken as long as a decade, the CBA proposal can deliver valuable spectrum to the U.S. market years ahead of any alternative proposal,” the CBA wrote.

Satellite operators would also coordinate with domestic C-band users such as Hollywood studios, content holders and distributors to “repack hundreds of audio and video services” into the remaining 300 MHz.

Representatives from Disney, Viacom, Fox, CBS, Discovery and Univision, among others, reportedly met with the FCC advocating for speedier spectrum allocation.

Indeed, Disney said its ESPN unit last month used 143 C-band feeds in one day to produce its 24/7 sports content.

“No other distribution method matches C-band in ubiquity and reliability,” the studios wrote in a letter to the FCC. “Content companies and other programmers thus rely on the C-band as the principal means of delivering video to the many thousands of earth stations in the United States.”

NPD: 5G Consumer Awareness Reaches Critical Mass

Next-generation 5G mobile wireless network technology may be more hype than reality at the moment. But consumer awareness of the fifth-generation wireless technology successor has reached mainstream, according to new data from The NPD Group.

According to the latest NPD Connected Intelligence, 5G awareness among consumers reached 64% at the end of the second half of 2018. That represented a 20% gain from 44% at the end of the first half of 2018.

The report – based consumer panel research of 3,600 U.S. cellphone users completed in February – found 33% of smartphone owners interested in purchasing a 5G-enabled smartphone once available.

Millennials reported have the highest potential (49%) to make the move to 5G, while consumers on unlimited data plans, who NPD says value downloading and streaming video content, are slightly less eager (43%) to purchase a 5G-enabled smartphone.

Verizon late last year launched limited 5G network rollouts in Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, while AT&T bowed service in 12 cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

“In the last several days, we’ve seen the first 5G-enabled smartphone announcements and as expected, the devices are coming with a premium price tag, due to economies of scale, and a slightly larger form factor, given the hardware needs, than what consumers have become accustom to,” Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement. “While consumer sentiment is positive, cost, form factor, and availability of 5G services will ultimately determine whether consumers will upgrade to 5G-enabled smartphones to enjoy much faster connection speeds.”

 

Verizon Eyeing New Customers, Entertainment Options for 5G

Verizon last October became the first telecom to launch residential 5G network coverage, with rollouts in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, Calif.

The $70 monthly (after 90-day free trial) service includes the choice of a free Apple TV device with 4K functionality or Google Chromecast device, and 90-days of access to online TV platform YouTube TV or Apple Music.

Verizon contends there is an addressable market of 30 million households for 5G – with about 50% first-time customers to the telecom.

Speaking Jan. 8 at Citi 2019 Global TMT West confab in Las Vegas, Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon Wireless, said early consumer feedback on the rollout is encouraging considering the dearth of 5G-combatible smartphones on the market.

Indeed, Verizon only revealed its first branded 5G smartphone – Motorola’s Moto Z3 – the day before the begin of CES Las Vegas. Samsung is making another one for the telecom.

Dunne said that unlike the challenging Fios pay-TV landscape, 5G promises new connections and content opportunities for creators.

“I think the whole content area will evolve … with developments of new genres of the snacking content, the short format content, which is so natural to the mobility space,” he said.

The executive doesn’t think 5G will necessarily be a lifeline to the existing pay-TV business model. Instead, Dunne believes 5G will enable a new business model that will evolve through a combination of what’s happening in the content space and the way people are accessing connectivity.

“Lots of people won’t have a traditional wireline [pay-TV] relationship, in which case they don’t need to buy 600 channels that they don’t watch,” he said.

 

 

Disney/Verizon Partnering for 5G Media, Entertainment

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications reportedly are partnering to explore entertainment and media opportunities in the nascent 5G wireless network platform.

5G claims to be able to deliver upwards of 10 gigabits of data per second, which could enable the downloading of a movie within seconds on a smartphone versus many minutes on 4G.

Disney’s upstart StudioLab unit is working with Verizon testing 5G applications for the distribution of content.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Disney Studios, told Variety, which first reported the pact.

Verizon last October launched 5G network capability in four cities – a move rivaled by competitor AT&T. Still in the early stages of deployment and functionality, 5G marketing and hype – however – has shown no limits.

When AT&T recently changed the old 4G LTE logo to 5G on branded smartphones, Verizon (and T-Mobile) cried foul.

“The potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon wrote in a letter reported by Endgadget (which Verizon owns). “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities.”

T-Mobile, in a post on Twitter, was slightly less diplomatic, tweeting a video showing someone sticking a “9G” sticker on an iPhone with the following caption: “Didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating.”

Indeed, without a 5G-capable phone, simply claiming to be able to deliver content faster over old technology is disingenuous.

“People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications,” wrote Verizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AT&T Launching First Domestic 5G Mobile Network Dec. 21

AT&T, beginning Dec. 21, says it will become the first telecom in the United States offering 5G wireless service over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network.

The initial launch is limited to 12 cities, which include Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer, said in a statement. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead.”

Observers contend 5G could have a significant impact on home entertainment.

Over the next decade, media and entertainment companies will be competing to win a share of a near $3 trillion cumulative wireless revenue opportunity, according to the recently released “5G Economics of Entertainment Report” commissioned by Intel and conducted by Ovum.

The report says that as early as 2025, 57% of global wireless media revenue will be generated by using the super-high-bandwidth capabilities of 5G networks and the devices that run on 5G. The low latency of these networks means that video won’t stall or stop — livestreaming and large downloads will happen in the blink of an eye.

AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, said that in the first half of 2019 it plans to deploy mobile 5G in seven additional cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

“As the ecosystem evolves, this technology will ultimately change the way we live and conduct business,” said Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business. “We expect that our initial adopters will be innovative, growing businesses. They’re the starting point for what we think will be a technology revolution like we’ve never seen before.”

Through an initial offer, select businesses and consumers will have access to mobile 5G device plus 5G data usage at no cost for 90 days. It gets pricey thereafter. Next spring, customers will be able to get access to AT&T’s 5G mobile hotspot device, Nighthawk (manufactured by Netgear), for $499 upfront fee and 15GB of data plan, which starts at $70 a month with no annual contract.