Press release

16 Feb 2022 London, GB

Enterprises prioritize 5G applications that drive real-world benefits now, over more cutting-edge use cases

LONDON, 16 FEBRUARY 2022. The third edition of the EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study reveals that enterprises are looking to 5G to help alleviate immediate business pressures brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and related global events.

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  • 85% of survey respondents say the global health crisis is driving 5G interest
  • 56% to invest in 5G within three years, but confidence on implementation stalls
  • Pressure on traditional models: 77% drawn to private networks to support 5G implementation

The third edition of the EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study reveals that enterprises are looking to 5G to help alleviate immediate business pressures brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and related global events. Forty-nine percent of respondents are prioritizing process optimization as a key application, compared with 28% who favor advanced 5G use cases featuring virtual or augmented reality. The findings indicate enterprises are now focused on bolstering business resilience, meeting corporate priorities and responding to stakeholder demands.

A range of external factors underpin this trend. Eighty-five percent of respondents say the impact of the global health crisis is driving their interest in 5G, up from 52% in last year’s study. Eighty percent say supply chain disruption has galvanized their 5G pursuit, while 71% cite the focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. However, there is some way to go in realizing these ambitions: 37% are concerned that 5G and internet of things (IoT) vendors’ current use cases do not meet their business resilience and continuity needs, and 47% do not think their sustainability goals are met by today’s use cases.

Tom Loozen, EY Global Telecommunications Leader, says:

“While the hype around how 5G low latency could power the metaverse or commercialize augmented reality continues to intensify, this study indicates that the technology has moved out of its infancy and is now actively being applied to drive real-world benefits. This is to be applauded, with 5G following the same innovation cycle of other transformative technologies. Sophisticated use cases will become important in time. More pressing, however, is the need for 5G providers to tune their solutions to the practical demands of industry leaders today.”  

Europe leads 5G investment, but global confidence stalls

5G leads all other emerging technologies tracked in the study in terms of future spending intentions, with 56% of enterprise respondents planning to invest within three years. Current and future spending intentions for 5G over this period are highest in Europe (up 5% to 76%), in contrast to last year when Europe lagged other regions. However, the findings caution that investment should not be taken for granted, with intentions falling by 8% year-on-year to 70% in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

This caution is indicative not only of a more defensive approach toward 5G, but of stalling confidence generally, with only 24% of enterprise respondents stating that they are very confident they can successfully implement 5G (down by 1% year-on-year). This is compounded by enterprises’ poor understanding of 5G’s relationship to other emerging technologies, now cited as the biggest internal challenge to 5G perception – up from fifth position in last year’s ranking.

Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global Telecommunications Lead Analyst, says:

“There are still fundamental anxieties around how 5G works alongside other emerging technologies. 5G providers should take this on board and adapt their customer discussions accordingly. By educating enterprises on how 5G can be harnessed by other emerging technologies, service providers can boost enterprise confidence in their 5G deployments”.

Growing appeal of private networks as telcos battle credibility gap

The study further finds that enterprises are becoming increasingly receptive to 5G solutions delivered through disruptive business models. Seventy-seven percent of enterprise respondents are interested in using private networks to support the implementation of 5G and IoT use cases, and 71% are interested in buying 5G through an intermediary rather than directly from a telco.

Meanwhile telcos face a significant credibility gap with regards their perception as digital transformation experts, with only 19% of enterprises considering them as such (unchanged from last year’s study findings). Conversely, 30% trust network equipment vendors as favored digital transformation experts – up from 19% last year.

Loozen says: “Disruptive customer signals suggest that telcos’ traditional relationships with enterprise customers are under pressure and more agile go-to-market strategies are essential in a 5G-IoT world. Telcos should take steps now to help ensure that they can meet enterprise demand for private network deployments.”

Ecosystem collaboration continues to be central to the enterprise growth agenda

Sixty-nine percent of respondents state that they already collaborate with other organizations as part of a business ecosystem – unchanged from last year’s study. However, the findings indicate that businesses are being bolder in their approach to partnerships, with 36% seeking vertical partnerships with companies in other sectors (up from 24% last year), and 73% are prioritizing suppliers that can offer ecosystem relationships as part of their 5G capabilities.

At MWC Barcelona 2022, the EY organization will be exploring how connecting industry ecosystems can help support technology-based transformation, build resilience and create long-term value. Find out more at MWC Barcelona 2022.

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About the survey

The third EY Reimagining Industry Futures Study is based on an online survey of 5G and internet of things (IoT) perceptions among 1,018 enterprises worldwide conducted between November and December 2021. Respondents were drawn from multiple industry verticals and geographies, with only the responses from those who self-selected as “moderately knowledgeable” or above about IoT or 5G initiatives within their organizations included in the results.

The survey explored executives’ attitudes and intentions toward emerging technologies, with a specific focus on IoT and 5G-based IoT. Themes examined include emerging technology spending intentions and Industry 4.0 use cases delivered by 5G, as well as business’ attitudes to suppliers and collaborative ecosystems. Building on the survey results, this report provides additional insights and recommendations based on enterprises’ usage of 5G-IoT and their evolving relationships with 5G-IoT providers.