What is 5G, and why is it bad now?

Following an introduction by Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro, Verizon CEO Hans Westberg takes the stage. He wears a simple black T-shirt with an unmistakable red check and begins to deliver his keynote speech. The topic at hand is 5G, some Wastbergs speak enthusiastically. The keynote speaker covers the eight “postures” of 5G, features a professional athlete, and sheds light on how the 5G drone will change the industry.

It was CES 2019. It was also CES 2021. Verizon has not been alone in fueling the 5G promotional machine; AT&T and T-Mobile have been talking on their 5G network for years. Now, this is showtime. With supporting flagship flagship phones and much higher budget devices, this is the year that a significant group of phone buyers will finally see for themselves what it is all about.

Here’s the bad news: If they’re listening to the hype, they’re going to be disappointed. We have been promised a fourth industrial revolution with imaginary things like remote surgery and driverless cars. Instead, the 5G we have now is more or less (or even slower) than 4G, with 5G at the same speed, with 5G and super-fast mmWave some parts of some Major cities with very limited boundaries. So where is this 5G future that we have promised? The truth is that it is coming along, but it will happen in more slow and less obvious ways that we have been led to believe.

Spectrum war

To understand the complex 5G situation in the US right now, you first need to know that carriers can use low-mid, and high-band frequencies. The low-band is slow, but provides extensive coverage. High-band, often called mmWave, is very fast but extremely limited in range. The mid-band sits in a sweet spot between the two, with good range and better-LTE speeds.

If you’re building a 5G network from scratch, you’d probably want a bunch of mid-band spectrum, right? The trouble is that spectrum is a limited resource. Sasha Segan, Lead mobile analyst PCMag And the treasure spectrum of 5G knowledge is part of the problem.

“Our government did not provide the right channel to the carriers,” he says. “Verizon and AT&T are basically using only the remaining odds and ends of their 4G spectrum… putting 5G encoding on these remaining bits and bobs so that they can pop the 5G icon on the screen. And the performance is meaningless. ”

Verizon and AT&T are using technology to achieve nationwide 5G coverage known as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), which allows 4G and 5G to coexist on the same spectrum. This helps the carrier make changes from one technology to another, but it comes at a cost. Michael Thaler, president and founder of wireless industry research firm Signal Research Group, It sits like this: “It’s like that super fast sports car and you’re stuck on the Santa Monica Freeway. You can’t experience the full potential.”

On the other hand, T-Mobile does not need to rely on spectrum sharing as the other two, thanks to Sprint’s acquisition and its mid-band spectrum. It has given an edge in its 5G offerings in this way.

By early 2022, however, we’ll see Verizon and AT&T catching up. A sequel to the mid-band spectrum known as the C-band went up for auction in late 2020. And until we know which companies have won which blocks of spectrum, we know those two carriers, in particular, big spending; To bid Tops over $ 80 billion.

What will happen next?

Networks may not yet be firing on all cylinders, but more and more mobile devices are ready for them. In fact, by the end of the year, it may be difficult to find more than one non-5G phone supporting the technology. Not only do Apple and Samsung’s flagship phones support 5G in their lineup, but it is also making its way into more timeouts and budget devices thanks to new 5G-ready low-end processors such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 480.

This year more people will buy 5G phones than ever before – not because they really wanted 5G, but because they support whatever phone they were going to get. The good news is that if the time has come to upgrade, there is really no downside to buying a 5G phone. The “5G tax”, which had imposed a higher price tag on 5G phones over the past 5 years, seems to be disappearing, and we have not noticed other drawbacks like excessive battery drain in our tests.

The lineup in the iPhone 12 series includes 5G connectivity.
Photo by Vegeran Pavic / Reporter Door

So what is the response like so far, say, someone who bought an iPhone 12 – not for 5G, but because it is the new iPhone? “They are frustrated and angry,” Segan says. “With both Verizon and AT&T, as I would call technical difficulties, their nationwide 5G is often slower than their 4G. So people are acquiring these iPhones and they are finding that often their performance is poor before 5G. “” Technical difficulties “refers to the inclusion of DSS and narrow 5MHz band limits in the case of Veris which AT&T often uses for its 5G.

It is not great. But some factors will make a difference from next year. First, the C-band spectrum will start coming online at the end of the year. If you’re one of the frustrated owners of the iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21, there’s good news: your phone is already approved to use the C-band, so if you’re on Verizon or AT&T, this should happen You should see an improvement in speed. .

However not all 5G phones support the C-band. Those who use it will not require a software update, and there is no guarantee that the manufacturer of your phone will make an offer. Cheap 5G models, in particular, cannot see C-band updates, even if they have the hardware to support it. Phone manufacturers need to apply for Federal Communications Commission approval to enable this and the cost of the move may be less likely to be troubled for younger phones.

The second factor is something that will probably happen sooner than the C-band is available: larger gatherings. When Segan realizes that Verizon’s ultra wideband can really shine. “When we’re all vaccinated, I think people are going to be desperate … for these dense, crowded, communal experiences that we’ve been missing for a year and a half. And so Verizon needs to work on applications and experiences right now Should, like they used to do in the Super Bowl, or what they talk about doing at Disney World, which you can only do on ultra wideband. ”

Again, this will depend on your 5G phone which supports perfect kind 5G – Not every 5G phone supports mmWave. The aforementioned iPhone and Samsung flagships, and other Verizon models they support, are depicted as “UW”.

Where are our jetpacks?

And what about the accessories of CES keynotes like remote surgery and self-driving cars? This is also on the way, but it will take longer. Thelander explains: “The first focus of 5G was actually a feature called ‘broadband enhanced mobile broadband’ and this is giving the consumer only faster data speeds on their smartphones. Things like factory automation and the functionality behind it, which actually evolved later, so it lagged behind a standardization perspective. ”

TCL 10 5G UW

The first focus of 5G has been to boost mobile data speeds for consumers.
Photo by Cameron Faulkner / The Reporter Door

Getting the technology piece is only half of the equation. “Once you define a certain feature or functionality into a standard, now a vendor has to go out and build that functionality, then you have to test it, and then you have to get the industry to adopt it. , ”Says Islander. “Technology can be, may be standard, it can work fine, but it has to be implemented and roll out. And you have to put a business case for it. How do you make money from it? All those kinds of things … just takes time. “

Despite the network constantly waving5G mission complete“Banners in TV commercials over the past year, 5G is still very much in progress. It’s getting better, but how quickly it happens to you depends on a lot of factors: which phone you have and which band it supports, which network you’re on, where you are and what you are are doing. It now seems clear that there was never really a “race to 5G” – the usual technological progress, which is often slow, confusing and uneven. It is a bit difficult to sell in a main or a commercial.

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