|Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos
With more and more activities being carried out online, and greater numbers of hours spent connected to both fixed and mobile broadband, the internet has become a fundamental part of daily life – as critical as access to food and electricity.
The fastest-growing mobile app categories during this time have been those related to the crisis, and those on remote working, education/e-learning, and wellness. These trends are a sign of consumers adapting to the new normal, and are unlikely to slow with the easing of the pandemic – six out of every 10 workers in the US are expecting to switch to video-based conferences after the crisis, and the same number believe online healthcare consultations will become more popular than physical visits to the doctor.
These trends are based not only on consumer opinion on their changing usage, but also on concrete findings gathered using anonymous, crowd-sourced, and on-device data.
Multitasking between devices and networks while staying at home, for everything from work to socialising, has caused the amount of data consumed on smartphones to increase. Globally, consumers claim a 25 per cent average increase in smartphone data usage. The average time spent connected to fixed broadband rose by 2.2 hours per day, while those connected to 4G networks saw an average increase of one hour a day.
ICT resilience has helped consumers navigate the crisis. Of those aged over 60 and highly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, 74 per cent agreed that reliable video-calling helped them stay in touch with family and friends during the crisis. Three in four parents say that ICT is helping to continue children’s education from home. Also, consumers see telecoms operators as more trusted entities than internet tech giants in using mobility data for the common good.
The role of 5G
With 74 per cent saying that mobile networks were performing better or the same than pre-crisis, it is safe to say that despite all odds they have managed to meet consumer expectations. And additional capacity offered by 5G in the future will further help.
Our study found 63 per cent to be positive towards the role 5G would play during such a crisis due to even higher speeds. Consumers recognise that 5G – via either fixed wireless access or enhanced mobile broadband – can enable them to benefit from improved speeds to meet their remote working needs.
So what will the future look like? Those surveyed in the study, which looked at 11,500 consumers across 11 countries, named a wide array of different activities as important, from quality of video calls with family and friends, to access to work documents in the cloud. Changes in behaviour will most likely transcend into the future, with our study highlighting five consumer predictions for a post-coronavirus world.
The first is redefined networks. Three in four people surveyed value network resilience and say internet connectivity is not only most critical during this crisis but also future crises.
The second involves autonomous commerce. Some 55 per cent believe automated delivery drones or fleets of driverless cars might replace delivery people as demand for contact-free interactions increases.
The next prediction is borderless workplaces. Six in 10 working people believe working remotely will be the new normal and expect employers to encourage remote working as a fundamental business practice after the pandemic has passed.
Fourth on the list is synchronous care. Six times more consumers in the US are expected to use real-time online health consultations versus during 2019.
Virtual experience economy
Finally, we have the virtual experience economy. Seven in 10 users of virtual reality (VR) think that, with more time spent online, virtual symbols will drive status rather than physical ownership of goods, while social VR will help ease isolation. Half of consumers might turn to AI-powered online virtual companions to entertain, educate and befriend them during isolation.
Now more people feel that they can work from home in a successful way, and employers see that productivity is not largely affected by this remote working. Five years ago, remote working on this scale generally seemed unfeasible. Today, our working routines represent a huge shift that has taken place, both in terms of technology and consumer maturity.
Today, 55 per cent of mobile subscriptions globally are running on 4G/LTE as per the Ericsson Mobility Report. For us, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as leveraging the full value of mobile technologies is concerned.
Just like 4G/LTE is the workhorse and innovation platform for countless consumer smartphone services, the 5G platform is capable of delivering user experiences and efficiency for both consumers and demanding enterprises.
In extraordinary times like these, the value of mobile connectivity is more apparent than ever before: mobile connectivity does much more than help support our current living standards – it also provides a stable and reliable platform for economic growth.