How much will 5G technology add to the UK economy?

23 February 2021 5 min. read
More news on

According to new analysis by PwC, 5G technology could be a major benefit the UK economy as it looks to find its feet in the post-Brexit world. With the nation still reeling from the coronavirus and a deep recession, it could see a boost of £43 billion to gross domestic product by 2030 thanks to the application of the new technology.

The global pandemic has led to what could be a “significant delay” in 5G technology’s roll out. Even short-term delays in 5G could see operators having to reallocate some of the money earmarked for its roll out to other areas in the interim – further delaying its deployment. However, this could be further stifling the economic recovery, as companies of all shapes and sizes are now relying on new technologies to boost their opportunities in the coming years.

New research from Big Four professional services firm PwC has found that productivity and efficiency gains enabled by the roll out of 5G technology will drive business, skills and service change worth billions in the coming years. As 5G offers the potential to rethink business models, skills, products and services, with the gains accelerating from 2025, and as 5G enabled applications and devices become more widespread, the researchers believe it could see UK GDP receive a £43 billion shot in the arm by 2030.

How much will 5G technology add to the UK economy?

Commenting on the findings, Rolf Meakin, Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) Partner at PwC, said, “5G will have a profound effect on the UK economy in the second half of the decade and can play an important role in building back the economy after the coronavirus pandemic. The technology has significant potential to improve productivity and create new customer and employee experiences in combination with other emerging technologies including AI, virtual and augmented reality and edge computing.”

According to Meakin, every single sector PwC examined stood to benefit from the advances of 5G –  something which should therefore make its deployment a high priority to both businesses and the government as an enabler of economic growth, and competitiveness. For example, while some of the biggest impacts of 5G might be years away, in the medium term, 5G networks and applications could already contribute to the achievement of sustainability targets through enabling more efficient networks, and flexible resource use.

This early potential for efficiency and boosted resource management is one of the key reasons why the UK’s healthcare sector has the highest potential to benefit from 5G technology. According to the PwC report, the technology is already earmarked to improve efficiencies and productivity in hospitals by improving the utilisation of medical devices and patient beds, enhancing the functionality of telemedicine and enabling the application of AI to a range of sensor data for preventative care, remote diagnosis and more seamless patient handovers. Ultimately, this could boost the healthcare sector by £15 billion over the remainder of the decade.

At the same time, as consumer retail and media companies struggle to make ends meet due to pressures on consumer spending and digital disruption, players in those segments will have the opportunity to use the technology to capture and enhance consumer interactions. From a retail perspective this will mean more targeted and tailored marketing campaigns as well as the incorporation of augmented and virtual reality to boost shopping experiences – while for media firms, they will be able to offer immersive gaming experiences online, as well as faster and more interactive access to online streaming content.

While technically financial services providers were lowest on PwC’s list of beneficiaries meanwhile, £3.1 billion in GDP is not to be sniffed at, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU which many fear has left the British financial sector isolated. As banks turn to digital products to meet the needs of their clients, 5G will help to facilitate advances in security such as using facial recognition to verify customers when withdrawing funds – helping to reduce losses from fraud.

Wilson Chow, PwC’s Global Leader, for Technology, Media and Telecoms, remarked, “5G is more than mobile connectivity. It puts a new lens on advancing productivity and rethinking entire business models for the future. Given the scale of potential and its impacts, every organisation will need a plan for 5G’s implementation within five years across technology and business strategies to maximise opportunities and prepare for how they integrate their technology and business strategies, and engage with customers, supply chain and regulators.”

In order to realise such potential, however, the UK may need to improve its efforts at rolling out the technology. Recent research from Analysys Mason found that when it comes to existing 5G coverage, the UK lags behind global leaders in Asia and is in the middle of the pack compared to neighbouring European economies. To rectify this, researchers suggested that the UK needs to provide targeted public funding where it can truly make a difference. For example, according to the study, just £800 million in public funds could deliver economic benefits worth over £2.5 billion, if invested in innovative 5G use cases including fixed wireless access, smart automotive and healthcare.