More than two in five (43%) UK consumers are unsure whether or not 5G poses a risk to public health, according to additional findings from Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends 2020 research.

Overall, 14% of UK consumers believe that there are health risks associated with 5G, rising to 18% of 25-34s and 16% of those aged 16-24.

Just 43% of UK consumers are confident that 5G does not pose health risks.

Deloitte’s research, carried out in May 2020 and surveying the digital attitudes of 4,150 respondents between the ages of 16 and 75, found that consumers in the UK are slightly less wary of the health risks of 5G in comparison to those in other European markets.

On average, 21% of consumers among the 12 European countries surveyed by Deloitte*believe that 5G poses a health risk. Around two in five (39%) say that 5G does not pose a risk to health.

Claire Jolly, head of technology, media and telecoms at Deloitte in the North West, said: “Worries about health impacts from radio waves have always existed, flaring up at the launch of 3G, 4G and Tetra networks, but misinformation about health impacts from wireless networks is more easily amplified than ever before. 5G myths have been among the most seen and shared of untruths in 2020, with a cascade of 5G misinformation sweeping across social media, blogs and fake news sites. The industry has a challenging but pressing task on its hands to educate consumers over the safety of 5G to support uptake of the technology.”

Enthusiasm for 5G is dialling-down as majority lack understanding of the technology

Deloitte’s report found that 2% of smartphone owners are currently using 5G, with enthusiasm for the technology waning.

Just one in ten (11%) smartphone owners say they would switch to a 5G network if they start hearing good things about it, down from 17% in 2019 and 19% in 2018.

While Deloitte’s research highlights that demand for 5G in 2020 may be softer than it would have been were it not for COVID-19, it also emphasises that consumer understanding of 5G technology is currently slim. Around two thirds (64%) of consumers say they do not know enough about 5G, with 26% strongly agreeing with this statement. Among women, the perception of not knowing enough is yet higher, at 74 per cent.

Despite this, consumers acknowledge some awareness of the technology’s benefits. Around half (48%) of smartphone owners agree that they’ll have better mobile connectivity if they move to 5G.

Jolly added: “Understanding how mobile networks work is challenging and time-consuming, with every new generation of network more sophisticated and harder to comprehend. Brands must do more to educate consumers on the technology’s safety and efficacy in a clear, simple way. The high proportion of women that feel they do not know enough about 5G is a particular concern and suggests that more effort should be made to produce 5G campaigns that are targeted towards wider-society. Now is the time for technology and telecoms brands to communicate clearly and confidently the safety of the technology, while at the same time emphasising the benefits it will bring to consumers, households and businesses alike.”

Employees working-from-home are likely to benefit from new 5G connections

Previous research from Deloitte highlighted that almost a quarter (23%) of those working from home during lockdown experienced connection issues, such as slow download speeds and dropped connections, daily.

With more than half (54%) of desk-based workers saying they would like to work from home more often once lockdown restrictions are fully lifted, households may choose to rely on a hybrid of 5G and WiFi connectivity in the future to improve their connectivity.

Jolly concludes: “WiFi connections proved unstable for many households during lockdown, as bandwidth was stretched to support family members working from home at the same time as others were remote schooling, playing online video games or streaming films. Upgrading to 5G has the potential to provide a more stable connection for households. Communicating this benefit of 5G technology is likely to encourage consumers working from home with unstable WiFi connections to seriously consider using 5G to support their remote working.”