Portuguese consumers association Deco Proteste says that the additional cost that mobile operators will soon charge consumers for using their 5G networks is not justified, as “there is still little coverage.” Until 31 March, operators MEO, NOS and Vodafone will provide free access to their 5G networks, but as of 1 April, they will charge €5.00 (US $5.70) per month for access to 5G, unless consumers purchase a plan with at least 10 GB of data.
Deco Proteste also drew attention to measurements that show current 5G speeds to be far below what some operators claims on their websites. The sites refer to speeds of up to 10 Gbps, whereas measurements made via the QualRede mobile application show average speeds of 140/17.5 Mbps, with occasional maximum speeds of 300/100 Mbps.
As 5G is increasingly rolled out around the world, it is inevitable that there will be some disconnect between consumer expectations and reality. In certain markets, especially the most advanced ones, many customers are already quite satisfied with the speed of 4G/LTE networks, which are indeed very suitable for all except for the most data-intensive purposes. So those who expect dramatic differences once they subscribe to 5G may well be disappointed. On the other hand, though, some operators may not deliver sufficient 5G speeds to impress consumers, if their networks are not advanced enough or have too small a footprint. That may be the case in Portugal.
But regardless of the reasons, we believe that it is a very bad strategy for an operator to make claims about its service that are not fulfilled in the reality on the ground, and language like “up to” does not fix the problem. Referring to speeds of 10 Gbps when the average speeds are in the low hundreds of Mbps is virtually guaranteed to alienate customers. And charging those whose plans have moderate data allowances an access fee under these circumstances will also very likely cause dissatisfaction with the operator, even if the amount of money per month is not very large.
In launching new services and new technologies, operators need all the good faith and loyalty they can get. Especially if the network is still growing and not yet able to deliver its full potential in terms of speed and coverage, it is essential to incentivize users to subscribe to the service and to stay with it while it develops. Charging fees works against that goal.