Network operators worldwide are getting serious about 5G, with 78% already involved in trials, according to a new network operator survey from Ericsson. Operators are looking to the Internet of Things for 5G monetization, with 86% seeing it playing a major role in 5G revenue growth.

The Ericsson findings echo those from recent Global Mobile Suppliers Association research, which found 81 5G trials underway in 42 countries.

5G Monetization
5G is widely viewed as a way of taking market share from competitors. Nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents in the Ericsson survey said they will take market share based on new features and performance, while 18% said they will do so based on pricing.

Nearly one quarter of respondents (23%) said they will migrate current 4G subscribers to 5G with enhanced revenues. But nearly two thirds (64%) of operators said they can’t pay for 5G by simply raising rates on consumers, because consumers are “tapped out.”

Eighteen percent of respondents said they expect to monetize 5G by “expanding to new markets—enterprise/ industry segments.”

An increased emphasis on the enterprise market is a key shift since a previous Ericsson 5G operator survey was conducted in 2016. “In 2016, 90% pointed to consumers as the central segment in their planning and only 34% focused on specialized industries,” the researchers wrote in this year’s report. “This year, operators are seeing that the consumer market is saturated, so planning for 5G is more evenly split across specialized industry segments (58%), business users (56%) and consumers (52%).”

Source: Ericsson 5G Readiness Survey

Specific industry segments on which operators expect to focus 5G monetization efforts include media/entertainment (cited by 69% of respondents), automotive (59%), public transport (31%), healthcare (29%) and energy/ utilities (29%).

Providing industry-specific services to these industry segments will be important in 5G monetization, according to 68% of respondents. The single most important use case in the media/entertainment segment is high-quality streaming, respondents said. Other top use cases by segment included:

  • Automotive: autonomous vehicle control
  • Public transport: Smart GPS
  • Healthcare: Remote robotic surgery
  • Energy & utilities: Control of edge-of-grid generation

More than three quarters (77%) of respondents said third-party collaboration is an essential element in 5G monetization and 68% said they need to find new revenue-sharing models.