Press release

24 Jun 2021 London, GB

EY survey reveals households need more than broadband speed promise, limited appetite for 5G

LONDON, 24 JUNE 2021. While 59% of households believe network operators have coped well during the COVID-19 pandemic, the second chapter of the EY study, Decoding the digital home, reveals a disconnect between what connectivity providers offer and what customers need.

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  • 52% of households surveyed prioritize broadband reliability over speed
  • 42% are not interested in upgrading to 5G, only 22% plan to make the jump
  • 26% experienced reduction in network reliability during the COVID-19 pandemic

Fifty-two percent of respondents believe broadband reliability is more important than speed – the latter typically cited by providers as a service differentiator – and 46% don’t think upgrading to higher-speed packages is worth the cost. Meanwhile, 25% say they don’t understand what broadband speed means in practice.

The appetite for consistency aligns with perceptions that the reliability of broadband services declined during the pandemic (26% across all markets, rising to 38% in households with children aged up to 11 years). Notably concern around reliability in urban areas is most pronounced in the UK and the US (39% in both countries). Only 31% of respondents say their provider offers effective guidance around how to ensure a reliable connection.

Tom Loozen, EY Global Telecommunications Leader, says:

“Using speed credentials as a primary marketing differentiator is outmoded, and connectivity providers should re-think their value proposition to meet customers’ real-world demands, accelerate uptake, and thereby address the urgent need to improve return on investment. It is also of grave concern that in an industry poised for growth, a large segment of the customer base feels disenfranchised because they do not understand promotional terminology such as ‘gigafast’ and ‘fiberspeed,’ and therefore lack awareness around what connectivity can deliver. Fundamentally, households want a better reliability guarantee and operators must improve how they communicate that to maximize the role they can play in the post-pandemic household.”

5G still has limited household appeal

According to the survey, consumer interest in 5G remains low, despite being commercially available in all markets surveyed. While 9% of households already have 5G connectivity, only 22% of respondents say they are interested in upgrading; 42% are not interested at all; and 22% remain indifferent. When considering the rationale for upgrading, again reliable connectivity emerges as the leading driver (36%) – far exceeding interest in better video streaming (20%) and gaming (just 7%).

Despite this apathy around upgrading to 5G, 32% of respondents would be willing to drop fixed broadband in favor of a mobile connection, if mobile broadband could meet their household needs.

Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global Telecommunications Lead Analyst, says:

“Limited awareness of new mobile capabilities will constrain future adoption unless addressed. Clear articulation of the benefits of 5G and the quality it offers is essential, particularly as some households weigh-up whether a mobile connection can serve their home internet needs. Simple and intuitive price plans will also spur consumers to become more engaged and responsive to the latest offers.”

Pressure on broadband and TV bundles

While the survey indicates that most repondents ultimately want “the basics” to work well, those that do consider additional features as part of a broadband bundle favor privacy and security (51%), reflecting wider anxieties and concerns relating to data protection experienced during the pandemic.

But traditional bundle concepts are under threat. Notably, only 15% of repondents cite the availability of premium content as a top consideration when evaluating broadband packages. Younger households (25-34 year olds) in particular don’t see the advantages of buying broadband and TV from the same supplier (33%), and only 39% of all households feel they get value for money from TV and content that they purchase from their broadband provider.

Baschnonga says:

“While combined broadband and TV bundles are a mainstay of the market, some repondents are questioning how much they benefit from these types of package. Providers should heed these warning signs to help ensure that they deliver convenience and value across all elements of the bundle.”

The second chapter of the study offers four steps to success for network operators looking to navigate this complex environment.


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About the study

Decoding the digital home is based on an online survey conducted for EY of more than 18,000 households in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA. The study is produced annually, and this year’s research was conducted in December 2020 and January 2021. The survey is designed to understand changing consumer attitudes toward technology, connectivity and content experienced in the home – and the companies that provide these products and services.