Will 5G Super-Charge OTT?

Based on the results of the just-released first U.S. edition of Deloitte’s “Connectivity and Mobile Trends" survey, the long-awaited advent of 5G should accelerate the already spiraling growth of OTT.

But as always, there are “ifs."

As we’d expect, consumer demand for faster, safer connectivity — what Deloitte dubs “connectivity craving” — has been escalating along with the numbers of connected devices being used, in part because of the boom in smart-home technology.

U.S. households now support an average of 11 connected devices, including seven smart screens to view and interact with content, according to Deloitte. (If you’re not impressed by those averages, consider that the average U.S. family as of this year consists of 3.14 persons, down from 3.7 in the 1960s.)

Other factors likely to drive fairly rapid adoption of 5G include issues when viewing videos on smartphones (reported by 43% of survey respondents), and dissatisfaction with the speed of mobile data (41%).



Nearly two-thirds (62%) said they’ll likely replace their home internet with 5G Wi-Fi service (here’s that first “if”)… if it delivers speeds equivalent to those of fiber. And the same percentage rank 5G’s potential to offer better connectivity in the home as one of the top three capabilities likely to drive them to use 5G.

More than a third (35%) of home internet consumers report using either a multi-point router, a range extender, or mesh router for their home WiFi network.

More than 40% of Gen Z consumers say they’ll play more mobile video games once they have 5G, and about 35% of Gen Zs and millennials say that access to 5G will change how they use augmented reality and virtual reality.

And while nearly a third of all U.S. consumers have smartphones that are two years or older, and fewer than 60% say they plan to buy a new smartphone in the next two years, 67% say they’re more likely to upgrade to a 5G-compatible smartphone once 5G is actually available.

(It seems only fair to note here that assessments of the true predictive ability of any survey of the general U.S. population that asks specific questions about 5G, however valid the survey’s basic methodology, probably can’t escape one complication: Lots of Americans are still clueless about 5G. Despite the very limited and spotty 5G coverage in the U.S. to date, a third of Americans believe they already have 5G mobile phone connectivity, according to a recent digital media knowledge test conducted by Still, that was a survey, too.)

“As carriers roll out 5G in the United States, a significant number of consumers will adopt the service quickly — if it delivers on its promise of faster speeds and better coverage,” sums up Kevin Westcott, vice chairman of Deloitte LP and U.S. telecom, media and entertainment leader.

He adds: As major networks and studios “continue to launch their own streaming and other data-heavy entertainment services, like online multiplayer games, augmented reality, and virtual reality, accelerating the race to attract and retain customers, providers that can satisfy the ‘connectivity plus content’ equation first will likely be the most successful.”

But assuming that 5G does deliver on its promises of faster speed and better coverage, adoption of 5G — and use of connected entertainment and other services — will also increasingly be affected by that other, still far-too-underestimated factor: privacy concerns.

“While consumers are ready for better when it comes to devices and how they connect them, they also expect better when it comes to their privacy and security,” warns Deloitte.

While 52% still feel that the value they get from online service outweighs their privacy and security concerns, other indicators seem to confirm that the consequences of hacking and ID theft, as well as growing awareness of smart devices’ potential for spying on us in our homes, may be starting to sink in. 

The survey found 72% of consumers agreeing with the statement, "I’m more aware now of how my data is collected and used than a year ago"; 59% say they’re "very" or "extremely" concerned about the privacy of their smartphone data; 73% are "very" or "extremely" concerned about the privacy and security of smart speakers; and 72% are worried about the security and privacy of home automation devices.

How long will it be before they start to worry about the extent of smart TVs’ ability to gather data about their users (regardless of promises of anonymity)?

Not long, it seems.

Just this week, the FBI actually posted this warning in its tech blog: ““Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home,” states the FBI. “A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give an easy way in the backdoor through your router.”

Further, 91% of Deloitte’s respondents said they believe that they should be able to control, edit and delete their personal data, and 84% that they should get paid by companies that monetize their data.

Points to keep in mind as marketers and manufacturers are tempted to enthusiastically embrace every new tracking and predictive capability that comes along.

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