5G Success Study Confirms 5G Operator Pioneers Are Leading Worldwide

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March 13, 2023

4 Min Read
5G Success Study Confirms 5G Operator Pioneers Are Leading Worldwide
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5G operators have made significant progress building out their networks and expanding their customer base, according to the first-ever study of 5G success. The study, conducted by GlobalData, shows 5G connectivity is being embraced around the world as operators make it available to consumers and businesses.

The global uptake of 5G networks has grown rapidly since 5G was introduced in 2019, reaching an estimated 1.1 billion connections by the end of 2022. While previous studies have evaluated network performance, GlobalData’s research is the first to measure 5G success, both from a technology and business perspective.

GlobalData focused on 15 national mobile operators in Europe and Asia, using five measures of 5G success – network evolution, innovation, commercial monetization, mobile traffic share, and customer base penetration. Operators as a whole scored highest in the areas of customer base penetration and network evolution, with slower progress in the areas of B2C innovation and 5G monetization.

In the network evolution category, six operators scored 5 on a success scale of 0 to 5 – South Korea’s LGU+, Zain Kuwait, True Thailand, Sunrise Switzerland, AIS Thailand and DTAC Thailand. This category takes into account two significant success metrics – population coverage, which measures the reach of operators, and user experience based on a survey of 2,400 respondents. The user survey results are important because they may encourage migration and increase the potential to deliver premium services.

On customer base penetration, six operators demonstrated exceptional success, with LGU+, Zain Kuwait, Sunrise Switzerland, Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Swisscom and Magenta (Austria) scoring a 5. “Within this section of the study, the key assessment criteria is the speed with which each operator had penetrated its customer base with 5G services, weighted against the length of time of their commercial 5G service availability, for a comparable annualized rate,” the study says. The operators that achieved a perfect score had an annualized penetration rate of 8% or higher.

In the area of 5G traffic share, LGU+ was the sole operator to score 5 points, though Zain Kuwait, Sunrise Switzerland and Swisscom were right behind, with a score of 4. In this part of the study, GlobalData “sought to ascertain the level of 5G traffic as a percentage of total mobile traffic usage.” The highest-scoring operators had an annualized rate of 15% excluding FWA (fixed wireless access) weighted against the number of months their 5G service had been available.

“The score reflects the extent to which the operators within the study have leveraged the energy-efficiency of 5G to save CO2 emissions, an important goal for operators seeking to forge a greener telecommunications business,” the study says.

Highest Scorers

Based on their performance in the five success categories, two overall winners emerged – LGU+ and Zain Kuwait. LGU+’s overall score was 22 out of a possible 25, while Zain Kuwait scored 21.

Zain stood out in 5G monetization success as the only operator to score a 5. The study attributes Zain’s success to a combination of timing and marketing. Zain had a “first mover advantage,” which “insulated the operator from challenger-type 5G price war tactics and allowed it to maintain a premium service marketing and pricing strategy.”

In June 2019, Zain launched its “Hello 5G” campaign, which helped establish the company as an early, progressive provider of 5G services to both consumers and businesses. “To flag this launch, Zain temporarily changed the name of its network signal, visible on all existing smartphones and Zain users, to ‘Hello 5G’ for 24 hours.”

Over the next 18 months, “Zain Kuwait continued to communicate its 5G network coverage progress as a key market differentiation, as well as external indicators of network quality, such as provided in August 2020 from Speedtest by Ookla.” In 2021, the company experimented with premium postpaid 5G bundles providing access to value-added services, such as movies and sporting events, and high data quotas.

It’s clear that customer communications played a role in Zain’s success. The study shows targeted messaging around the advantages of 5G produces good results for operators. That is what happened in South Korea, where LGU+ gained almost one million customers in just six months.

“In communicating the benefits of 5G to consumers, LGU+ was fast to roll out unique and innovative service experiences – many within the first year of 5G service commercialization,” the study says. Such innovations included immersive virtual reality (VR) 5G-based experiences such as LGU+ Pro Baseball, VR for Golf, and Idol Live.

Further Innovations Coming

GlobalData’s results show operators are making progress in 5G B2C innovation and monetization. “Arriving on the scene everyday” are new use cases, applications and devices leveraging low latency and the stronger uplink and downlink power of 5G.

While initially there was a stronger focus on enterprise 5G projects, the study says, “it is clear that several operators in the study have been able to achieve twice or even three times the ARPU from 5G customer over 4G customers, making for a good justification for further investment in consumer 5 innovations.”

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