The introduction of 5G networks will not solve the connectivity issues affecting many rural communities across the UK, new research has claimed.
uSwitch.com says its latest survey has found that many phone users are still struggling with 4G signal, and many have no current plans to upgrade to 5G because most of the launch sites are cities and urban areas.
According to its research, a third of adult smartphone users in the UK have trouble connecting to 4G at least once a week.
It adds that the focus on an initial urban rollout for 5G means that only 28% of the UK will be covered by the next-generation network by the end of 2019.
As a result, uSwitch says it found that only one in seven phone users (14%) plans to upgrade to 5G in the next year, and only 19% believe it will improve connectivity.
Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com said: “With so many of us completely reliant on our smartphones these days for our news, work, shopping and social media updates, there is little more frustrating than being unable to connect to phone services which we pay for.
“Ofcom reports that 66% of the UK has 4G coverage from all major provider, but more than 23 million people are still facing difficulties connecting to their networks.
“This can sometimes be blamed on network congestion at busy times, but often the capacity simply isn’t there for the numbers of people wanting to access a service they have paid for.
“The arrival of the next-generation infrastructure should help with some of the problems currently experienced by 4G users, but this will not be an overnight solution, in particular as fewer than one in seven of us is planning to upgrade to 5G in the next year.
“Don’t suffer in silence and get blinded by all the chatter about 5G, if you are struggling with connectivity go back to basics and look at a couple of coverage maps, or install an app like Opensignal’s to see who has the best reception for coverage for you.”
Mr Doku also urged mobile operators to not use the launch of 5G to plug holes in existing network coverage.
“The industry cannot use the launch of 5G as a band-aid to cover up the shortcomings of 4G. Providers must work with communities to improve connectivity, especially in rural areas, to prevent millions of people being left stranded on technology two generations out of date,” he said.
“Unless networks improve their coverage in rural areas, the risk is that 5G will make the same mistakes as 4G and predominantly serve the cities at the expense of more rural areas of the country.
On Monday, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced a £5 billion package from the government to support the roll-out of broadband, 5G and other high-speed networks aimed at reaching the hardest-to-reach 20% of the country as part of infrastructure investment designed to help businesses and communities grow.