It’s sooooooooo fast. Latency is sooooooooo low. Capacity is sooooooooo high. It’s all that, and a big fat multi-billion dollar bag of chips. WOO HOO, GET YA SOME!
However, all is not what it seems. As with many wireless technologies (AHEM-COUGH… Wi-FI… COUGH…LIES AND HYPE… COUGH), much of 5G’s marketing relies on what might come to be, and what the 5G future may look like if the planets align. Meanwhile, the truth can be hard to find.
Of late, I’ve had professional reasons to dig in more on 5G, to understand it’s building blocks and implementation challenges and benefits. Though I’m not poo-pooing the impressiveness of the technology’s promise, I can’t help but observe how speculative and fraught with caveats it all feels at this point. Here’s a dose of reality: this article published on September 11, 2020 by PC Mag.com gets to the meat of it:
Our annual Fastest Mobile Networks report came out this month, and it had some shocking results for the race to 5G. We discovered that AT&T’s 5G network is actually slower than its 4G network in almost all of the 26 cities we tested, and that T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network, while faster than 4G, isn’t very fast at all. Verizon’s network, meanwhile, is compellingly fast but its 5G was only available in a single-digit percentage of our test locations.
I encourage you to read the whole article, as it bubbles up a lot of nuance that both clarifies and clouds any current discussion about 5G.
Will Some Areas Get Left Out in the Cold?
Last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation made a rather grim prediction in their “Enough of the 5G Hype” post about one possible aspect of our collective 5G future- one of those little potential bummers that the carriers themselves won’t offer up:
A recent FCC report on competition found that the future of high-speed broadband for most Americans will be a cable monopoly. Without a plan to promote fiber to the home, that’s not likely to change. In fact, because the 5G upgrade relies on fiber infrastructure, even 5G will be possibly limited to areas that already have FTTH – meaning, they already have a competitive landscape and, therefore, better service. The rest of us get monopolistic slow lanes.
I don’t know enough about the various regulatory and larger network intricacies afoot to sanction the prediction, but it is minimally thought-provoking.
Do Your Own Digging
At the risk of going hyperlink-happy, let me share one more with you from Security Boulevard. This piece does a decent job of providing both skepticism and hope for what 5G might do for us in the years to come.
To me, it’s a safe bet that when and where it reaches maturity, 5G will be generally impressive. Beyond that, I really can’t tell yet what the overall paradigm will ACTUALLY amount to. For that matter, their may not end up being “an overall paradigm” when it comes to 5G, We may be looking at local or regional winners and losers when it comes to the question of “How 5 will my G really be?”. There’s just a lot left to play out.
Hopefully it will be as glorious as the hype, but meanwhile the hype needs to be scrutinized.