GWS survey of U.S. smartphone users finds consumer confusion around availability and benefits of 5G networks and devices

DULLES, VA – October 08, 2020 – Nearly half (49%) of U.S. consumers (across all major carriers) believe their current iPhone is capable of accessing 5G, despite the fact that the first Apple 5G phone is not yet available – according to a recently released Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) survey of 5,000 U.S. smartphone users. More broadly, 29% of all consumers with smartphones are unsure if their current device is 5G capable, while 38% of consumers do not know if their wireless carrier provides 5G coverage where they live.

Smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers are accelerating rollouts of 5G-enabled devices and networks; yet GWS’ findings suggest lingering confusion on 5G availability and a lack of understanding regarding 5G capabilities. However, this should also serve as an opportunity to better educate consumers on 5G plans and benefits and help drive broader awareness and enthusiasm.

Key GWS Survey Findings:

Consumer 5G Awareness Remains Work In Progress

  • 5G confusion extends across smartphone brands.
    • 49% of Apple iPhone users across all carriers think their current smartphone is 5G capable.
    • 29% of all smartphone users are unsure whether their phone is capable of accessing 5G. Even when looking only at users that bought smartphones this year, 24% are unsure whether their phone is capable of accessing 5G.
  • Consumers uncertain of their 5G coverage. Rural residents – who could stand to gain the most from 5G – are largely unaware if their carriers offer 5G service.
% of smartphone users who are unsure if their carrier provides 5G
Rural Suburban Urban
45% 47% 27%


  • Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996, or respondents ages 24-39 – are most confident they have 5G phones.
% of smartphone users who believe their phones are 5G capable
18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74
41% 58% 62% 35% 19% 18%


  • Consumers interested in 5G but don’t see the benefits…yet. Despite uncertainty, 76% of consumers are either ‘very interested’ or ‘somewhat interested’ in 5G innovation, but 74% don’t expect to see any meaningful benefits this year.
When survey respondents expect to receive meaningful 5G benefits
Sometime this year Sometime next year 2022 2023 or beyond Incrementally over the next few years Not in my lifetime I don’t know
26% 27% 9% 4% 8% 4% 22%

Communicating 5G Benefits Can Drive Carrier, Device Revenues

  • Given confusion, many users are not willing to pay more for 5G. Those who would not pay more are also unsure how 5G will directly benefit them or are happy with their current technology. 38% would not pay more to upgrade to a 5G phone.
Top reason consumers would not pay more
Don’t understand how 5G will benefit me directly Current technology meets my needs No 5G “killer app” to justify the cost I should not be charged more for improved network and device performance Other
23% 28% 4% 38% 7%


  • Urban and younger consumers are most willing to pay for 5G.
% of consumers who would pay more to upgrade to 5G
Rural Suburban Urban
52% 55% 75%


% of consumers who would pay more to upgrade to 5G
18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74
64% 73% 81% 59% 48% 40%


  • Need for speed. Consumers are most excited about the increased data speeds their 5G smartphone will offer.
Tangible 5G smartphone benefits consumers are excited about
Faster Data Speeds HD Video Calling/Conferencing Improved Video Streaming Quality Better Gaming Experience
54% 16% 13% 8%


  • Consumers expect 5G benefits for critical applications. The pandemic and expanded telework may be contributing to stronger consumer interest in critical 5G applications. Consumers identified Smart Cities as the market application that will benefit most from 5G:
    1. Smart Cities – 23%
    2. Telehealth/Telemedicine – 19%
    3. Public Safety/Emergency Response – 17%
    4. Remote Learning – 14%
    5. VR/AR – 10%
    6. Real-time Gaming – 9%
    7. Autonomous Vehicles – 8%
  • 5G for crisis preparedness. Most respondents (54%) believe 5G deployment should be accelerated to help with current and future crisis situations such as COVID-19.

Wireless carriers and mobile device manufacturers have made important 5G investments, but our survey demonstrates that market education is still required to help consumers better understand how 5G can impact their lives in a positive and meaningful way,” said Paul Carter, Founder and CEO at GWS. “But given the fact that 64% of consumers plan to buy a smartphone between now and the end of 2021, there is clearly an opportunity for 5G to drive enthusiasm for new products and services – assuming consumers better understand the benefits of the next generation wireless technology.”

Methodology and notes to editors

All survey figures, unless stated otherwise, are from a study commissioned by GWS and conducted by Toluna. Total sample size was over 5,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between June 16th and July 3rd, 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of Americans (aged 18+).

About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.

Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Global Wireless Solutions has set the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines high-level network testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers high-quality network data and engineering analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that include drive, venue and in-building testing. At last count, GWS has driven 13 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.

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