A new survey shows that while most Europeans surveyed know what 5G is, they struggle to truly understand its value. Making matters worse, an alarming amount of disinformation regarding its safety persists. Governments and network operators will need to step up their information efforts on both counts.
The survey, released by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) in October in conjunction with market research firm Ipsos, was based on interviews with over 7,000 respondents across 23 European countries. One key point of good news for network operators in the midst of early 5G network buildouts is that nearly all – 96% – were aware of 5G. That said, only 24% reported understanding it “very well,” and only a slight majority, 54%, say they are “positive” about it.
Disinformation and misunderstanding an issue with 5G
The survey does hold particularly good news for operators hoping to monetize 5G in business settings: 85% of respondents indicated that “5G is important for business,” with 51% of respondents that hold managerial responsibilities indicating that they intend to deploy it in their company.
The ETNO survey also reveals an alarming level of misunderstanding around the perceived dangers of 5G technology. For example:
- While three-quarters of respondents believe (accurately) that there is no correlation between 5G and COVID-19, an alarming 19% believe that there is a connection
- 22% of respondents believe 5G has a negative impact on the environment
- 16% believe 5G’s radiation is harmful to bees
The survey also shows 23% of respondents do not believe 5G will guarantee their privacy, though in fairness this may be a more legitimate concern that has less to do with technology “myths” and more to do with concerns over web companies like Google and Facebook that operate over 5G and other networks.
Part of the challenge in fighting this disinformation is a paradox related to where Europeans are getting their information from in the first place. The ETNO survey shows that one in three respondents get their information from social media, but at the same time, they rank these sources as among the least trusted sources. By contrast, only 8% of the respondents learned about 5G from government sources even though they rank them among the most reliable sources.
ETNO regards the survey as a call to action for both governments and telecom operators: now would be a good time to “speak up” on behalf of both the value and safety of 5G.