U.S. wireless giants AT&T and Verizon had big plans last year to advertise the benefits of upgrading their phones and embracing 5G wireless.
Then the pandemic hit, and with everyone stuck at home, cloud gaming, checking instant odds on gambling apps from stadiums and downloading Netflix movies at the airport became far less important than the ability to work from home.
“We almost lost the year,” said David Christopher, EVP of partnerships & 5G ecosystem development for AT&T. “But now, people are excited to get out of their homes and experience 5G in the wild. We will dramatize use cases that matter to customers.”
AT&T and Verizon want to transfer customers as fast as possible to 5G networks—not just to recoup the heavy capital expenditure costs of building out updated nationwide networks but also to lock in customers and keep them from defecting to T-Mobile.
Both AT&T and Verizon have offered promotional pricing this year on 5G phones to both retain customers and entice new ones. But T-Mobile tends to offer the cheapest prices among the big three, while also topping both Verizon and AT&T in download speed and 5G availability, according to Open Network’s July 2021 5G User Experience Report.
“A focus on 5G isn’t going to be flattering to either Verizon or AT&T,” said Craig Moffett, a wireless analyst at MoffettNathanson. “They are falling far behind T-Mobile in what will soon matter most: 5G speed and coverage. And they charge consumers much higher prices than T-Mobile.”