We have been looking at 5G Smartphone technology for a while, and it has changed the smartphone industry’s landscape. The reports we see show incredible speed, unlike anything we have ever seen before for broadband systems. This is the most significant technological jump the industry has ever known.
We’re not exaggerating when we say it could change how we view and use smartphones forever. Today we are taking a more in-depth look into what we know about 5G, the things we have to look forward to, and the issues that might arise from it.
5G Fastest Speed So Far?
On October 20th, 2020, Ericson put out a press release that said:
“When fully mature, 5G technology has the potential of reaching speeds up to 10 Gbps, latency under 5 milliseconds, and service deployment times of 90 minutes.”
“The demonstration, completed in a lab environment, used 5G infrastructure equipment from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio and a 5G smartphone form factor test device powered by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X60 5G Modem-RF System featuring 3rd-generation Qualcomm® QTM535 mmWave antenna modules.”Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm first in the world to achieve 5G peak speed of 5.06 Gbps
How Big Is 10 Gbps On The Internet Or A Smartphone?
A Comparison Below of Some Data Sizes of Everyday Items:
- iPhone Photo – 1.12 MB or 3024 Pixels by 4032 Pixels
- Gmail email attachment file size limit – 25 MB
- Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour for each stream of a standard definition video.
- Recommended Download speed for Streaming Gaming is – 50 Mbps
- Medical PET scans and mammograms or 3D mammograms – 10 GB
- Call of Duty Game: Modern Warfare 2020 – 231GB
- Large Computer Solid State Drive – 100 TB
Understanding T-Mobiles 5G Multi-Spectrum Strategy
To start, let’s look at what T-Mobile, who currently is the first nationwide carrier, has the most substantial 5G network among the major carriers both in terms of availability and its capacity. They believe a Multi-Spectrum Strategy, which utilizes three different areas or a 5G wave spectrum, is the best way to get the signal to the average person’s Smartphone across the United States, and we agree.
“High-band, or millimeter wave (mmWave), consists of spectrum above 24 GHz and offers incredible speeds, but the short waves don’t travel very far and struggle to penetrate walls, trees, and even glass. Mid-band consists of spectrum between 1 GHz and 6 GHz and offers a balance between speed and range. Where high-band waves can only cover a few city blocks and mid-band waves can cover somewhat broader areas, low-band waves (consisting of spectrum under 1 GHz) can cover hundreds of square miles, offering more reliable connectivity both indoors and outdoors.”
T-Mobile/Sprint has speeds of 30-100 Mbps, which is faster but not mmWave fast, with the average 4G LTE speed in the U.S. nationwide being around 17 Mbps. T-Mobile/Sprint also is in 5,000 plus cities nationwide compared to Verizon and ATT, which have not even come close to 100 cities yet.
5G Dark Ages
Maybe you have seen on Youtube or experienced yourself some of the 5G Ookla Speedtests that show an incredible download on a 5g phone of in excess of 1,700 megabytes per second (MBps).
It seems like the elephant in the room of 5G technology is not that Millimeter-wave is lighting fast but that you have to be within an unobstructed 150′ of the Millimeter-wave antenna with no trees or walls in the way.
There are many miles to go with the rollout of the antenna systems that proliferate the world to get the extreme speed and data transfer promised by Millimeter-wave or mmWave. From what we have seen in 5G come true, it has a lasting impact on the smartphone industry and how we use the internet in general.
The Millimeter-wave is a set of high spectrum bands between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. mmWave is in between microwave and infrared waves; this spectrum is now used for high-speed wireless communications
5G is said to be a quicker mobile network than superfast broadband and may even rival our home Wi-Fi in terms of speed. This could change the way the average household connects to the internet. In turn, this could see the industry shift its focus to 5G packages instead of the traditional phone line or cable-based internet.
Let us look at what we know and what has been proposed so far about 5G:
Speed of 4G Compared to 5G
The speed of our connection is the first thing that is set to change. 5G can be much faster than 4G by a significant margin if, as you read above, they have access to the correct 5G wave spectrum.
The average 4G network speed when running at optimum capacity for an average smartphone is 28 to 32 Mbps per second download speed but can run up to 47 to 60 Mbps in the United States depending on where you are. However, this is for an average smartphone on an average day.
4G, when running at full throttle, is actually capable of speeds of up to 300 Mbps, but this is never something the average person has been able to do through a smartphone. However, these were the speeds that were boasted about by the networks before the advent of 4G. Technically it was true, but unfortunately, such speed has never been available to the general public.
We imagine why it is more about actual capability than data providers deciding to limit the achievable speeds. One would expect if a provider could offer faster speeds, it would then sell this as an additional service.
This method is something data providers had been doing during the early 2000s and 2010s but has gradually been phased out. It was also something only really offered by home broadband providers and not cellular providers.
Fiber Optic Speed
Fiber optic technology allowed providers to raise their speeds, which is monetized depending on where you are. We are now living in an age where superfast broadband is simply expected from every provider. Those attempting to profit from higher speeds without unlimited plans are seen as behind the times and greedy. And rightly so.
This all makes us a little bit cautious when we hear the claims about 5G broadband that can offer 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) per second to our smartphones. That is ridiculously fast, and we hope it’s true too. But if we are sensible, we expect this is what 5G is capable of when going at full speed.
Broadband For Most Of The United States Is 25 Mbps
Still, we don’t expect this to be the speed for everyone to enjoy through our smartphones. We have discussed the divide between the city and the rural internet divide in our article “Do You Need to Upgrade to a 5G Phone in a Small Town?”
According to Microsoft, their data shows that 157.3 million people in the United States do not use the internet at broadband speeds.
But before you get disappointed, remember this is just our expectation as a person who has a smartphone and studies the industry.
Fixed Broadband Speed Compared to 5G
The fixed broadband speed in Nome, Alaska, where I am, on an iPhone 11 Pro is a whopping 6.11 Mbps.
There are also reasons to be happy; gigabits carry much more data than megabits do, so even if half of this speed turns out to be available, as in 5 Gbps, that is more than enough for our data needs. There isn’t much you can’t do at that speed on a cell phone!
Let’s put it in perspective; the average American household’s fixed broadband speed is around 161 Mbps according to speedtest.net, for half of the country, so this is faster than most of us get on our cell phones by around 136 Mbps and is also enough for us to do most of the things we need.
This means that at a speed of around 161 Mbps, we can watch Netflix (or stream from elsewhere) in multiple rooms simultaneously, play online games in rapid 4K resolution, and download movies or boxsets in a matter of seconds or minutes. Now let’s imagine a series of things to really get our heads around the speed of 5G:
- First, imagine the speed of your home broadband is indeed 161
- Mbps like the average home. Now imagine that speed is ten times as fast. By this point, it’s already quicker than we probably need it to be.
- So, let’s round up the speed from 940 Mbps to 1000 Mbps. This speed equals 1 Gbps
- Now, let’s times this by five, so our home broadband is 5 Gbps. By this point, we’re already entering crazy speed territory. Imagine if our internet really was this fast?
- Next, let’s imagine that speed is not in our home but on our cell phones. This is the expected speed of 5G. And this is why people expect it could replace traditional broadband internet.
- One final thing to imagine, just for fun. Let’s double that speed again, so it’s the advertised 10 Gbps. This speed is what we meant by ridiculously fast.
What’s impressive is that 5G speeds are reported at around 1 to 2 Gbps in areas where it is being used if they are under a mmWave antenna. These are just early tests and experimental rollouts. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect the technology to get faster as a global rollout begins and the network is perfected over time.
Like we said earlier, we are skeptical about it ever reaching the dizzying heights of 10 Gbps, mostly because 4G never reached the full potential it was advertised at, and that system is about to be replaced. But we’re prepared to be wrong. Although 10 Gbps really may be overkill. But if not? Wonderful.
Can you think of any scenario where 5 Gbps is ever too slow? The mind really does boggle over these numbers when we start to imagine the speeds they represent. The technology has not been invented yet that uses those speeds. We dislike writing this phrase in an article, but time will tell. We’ll need to wait and see what happens, but one thing is for certain; 5G is fast, depending on the application.
Cost of 5G
Now we’ve covered the potential costs of 5G in an earlier article called “How Much Will 5G Data Really Cost You?”. In that article, we investigate the potential costs involved, especially in regards to data usage, so we won’t repeat the content from that article (although we recommend you read it). Still, we would like to combine some of the findings and expectations from that article with a prediction we made in another article, “5g Mobile Technology Long Term Benefits”.
In that second article, we looked at the data compiled from the first one. We observed that 5G might usher in the end of data allowances on smartphones. Let’s explain why. We have seen enough evidence for it to be one of the only logical ways to solve the riddle of the cost of 5G with the data download capacity of the future.
When these mobile broadband companies envisioned monetizing data, they did not see the future capabilities available. Our previous articles concluded that 5G is expensive if it uses the current model left by 4G. User habits are changing; 4G enabled smartphone users to enjoy streaming services in ways they hadn’t before.
Let’s look at iTunes as an example. Since the iPod’s invention and, subsequently, the iPhone, to listen to music, the user would need to hook their device up to a computer, then move their chosen tracks across from that to the iPod or iPhone. This was the way MP3 players have always worked.
Now, however, things are changing. iTunes itself may be becoming obsolete and replaced by Apple Play. This is a music streaming service where once the user signs up and agrees to a monthly fee, they can listen to all of the music they want through Apple’s cloud. It means they no longer need to pay for individual tracks and albums and can listen to whatever they like whenever they like. Of course, there are some limitations, but it’s mainly like Netflix but with music. Spotify offers a similar service.
But what’s this got to do with 5G? Well, when 3G was the leading network, this kind of music streaming service would have been too slow and wouldn’t have been worth the monthly fee. It may have worked well enough for some users, but overall, streaming wasn’t as effective with 3G as it was with 4G. Once 4G became the standard, new avenues presented themselves; streaming was no longer something that needed to be confined to the home.
Data Providers Need to Adapt to 5G
Data providers needed to adapt, and realizing that user habits were changing, providers started to offer more generous data packages. For example, the one I’m using now gives me unlimited data for a relatively low price. Several years ago, it would have cost me much more.
Services like Apple Play and Spotify are just the beginning. 5G has opened the floodgates to a plethora of streaming options on smartphones; it’s already happening. Apps like YouTube or video-based social media platforms were a novelty during the 3G era. In many ways, we’d watch the occasional video, but users were always mindful of their data allowance.
The idea of watching something for a prolonged amount of time on a platform like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu was laughable, although the apps existed. Even during the current 4G era, this is still a difficult thing to do.
Who ever realistically uses their cellular data to watch movies on Netflix via their cell phones? Perhaps when hooked up to nearby Wi-Fi, this isn’t a problem, but even with 4G, this is difficult and expensive. Even a package like the one I’m on wouldn’t let me watch as much as I like; I’d burn through my data no matter how plentiful.
Our “How Much Will 5G Data Really Cost You?” article post broke down the cost of this over several amounts of time. Even watching Netflix for an hour in high definition can drain an average data allowance in no time at all. These streaming apps simply aren’t built for 4G. For those of us who still use smaller data packages, even Apple Play and Spotify may be out of reach. I know of at least two people who ended their custom to these services due to it costing too much data.
Will Habitual Streaming Mean The End For Cellular Data Allowances As we Know Them?
The advent of 5G means that many of the apps that we have on our phones become more comfortable to use. Netflix will be streamed through our iPhone and Samsung devices in glorious 4K without a single moment of buffering.
It sounds incredible, but if data allowances stay as they are, then we won’t be able to stream such content for long without getting a text message from our provider telling us we’re running low on data. We imagine this will become tiresome to many consumers. A battle of wills between them and the providers will ensue. It’s happened before.
Having access to high-speed 5G internet on a smartphone will allow software developers to create new and exciting services that take advantage of this new technology. From streaming services to music to integrated social media to gaming, apps are about to evolve, and 5G is necessitating they do so. We imagine such apps take advantage of the constant connectivity and consume more data than they ever have before.
5g Data Consumers
Consumers are going to like it and get used to this. They are not going to want to go back to how things were. After all, they purchased their new expensive handset to use 5G, and all these new features that are now becoming the norm, a text message telling them to stop isn’t going to go down well. Data allowances are going to need to change.
Data providers are already adjusting their plans to accommodate new user expectations. 5G is going to mean new technology and software, and providers know this. They also know full well that users are churning through more data than ever before. It makes sense to offer more generous data allowances to encourage users to do this. It’s precisely what happened when 4G replaced 3G. But this time, it’s different, and only offering more generous data packages isn’t going to cut it in the long term.
This is because, as we discussed above, the speed of 5G now puts it on a par with the internet we use in our homes. In time consumers will ask one crucial question: “Why do we have a data allowance on our phones when we do not have it at home? What is the difference?”
It’s a good question. If the line is blurring between both, then why is one penalized for using too much data, and the other isn’t? How is that fair or right? This is the battle of wills we mentioned. Consumer demand for the eradication of data allowances hasn’t happened yet. But we’d bet our shiny new iPhones that it’s coming.
Broadband Speed And Streaming
Imagine now getting an email or text message from your provider telling you to stop watching Netflix because you’ve just downloaded a whole series in three seconds and used too much data. Although Netflix also is a service we’re paying for every month, now, another service comes along and tells us we’ve used too much of it. If these same platforms have grown in prevalence outside of the home and inside it, then why is data controlled so differently?
The same debate happened once home broadband reached a certain speed, and streaming had a lot to do with it. The rise of streaming services in the home (such as Netflix and Hulu) resulted in data allowances being phased out in many areas. But let’s not forget they did exist for a long time.
Regarding cost, we may also be paying our home internet provider the same amount we’re paying our cellular provider. So why is one service unlimited and the other not? Data allowances are going to come under this same scrutiny in the next few years. The same things that drove them away from our home internet connections will also spell the end for them outside of the home. The concept of a data allowance is on borrowed time, thanks to 5G.
The Domino Effect
The death knell of mobile data allowances will be heralded by one company first. Imagine companies try and profiteer from 5G. It is expensive until it fully replaces 4G. By that point, it is merely the standard, as one by one, we upgrade our smartphones, meaning our previous contracts come to a natural end. By this point, 5G will likely just cost the same as any other price plan. It will no longer be the new shiny toy.
Then the events described above begin to occur gradually. Consumers are frustrated with data allowances, and one company (we don’t know which) can decide to abolish them. They can offer a Premium Data Package first, one which includes no data allowance. But in time, they take the step in ending them forever.
This chain of events would be a great marketing move for any provider, especially if it’s introduced when public opinion has turned against the concept of data allowances. It would allow the provider to seem magnanimous and forward-thinking, and we imagine they attract many new customers with such a move.
This chain of events eventually forces the hand of other providers who adopt the same approach or risk being left behind and driving their customers towards their competitors. This is the battleground where customer loyalty is tested in the next few years. Once the leading providers adopt this approach, the rest will fall like dominos, and cellular data allowances will go off and join download limits in the internet service afterlife!
Replacing Home Wifi With 5G
The possibility of 5G replacing home Wi-Fi is a possibility, but it may be exaggerated. A more realistic statement would be; 5G could replace Wi-Fi if it adapted and home broadband providers do not’. It would take an awful lot of stars to align for 5G to replace Wi-Fi anytime soon. But fast forward ten years, and the way we use broadband may well have evolved into a model where we primarily use cellular data.
It’s unlikely that home broadband providers, who supply their service the traditional way, such as through a phone line, would just lie down and allow 5G cellular providers to replace them. In order for them to do so, they’d first need to be offering a service that was comparable on several levels, such as price, speed, ease of use, stability, and advantages. Let’s break these down further:
- Speed – We’ve discussed speed at length above, and we know 5G can be incredibly fast. This is the feature that has amazed everyone, and they are talking about it. It’s the feature that could arguably allow it to overtake standard Wi-Fi as we know it and progress mobile technology past standard desktop computers.
- Cost – Of course, we’ve mentioned costs above and in an earlier article in great detail. 5G packages would need to be more affordable than standard home broadband packages if it was ever to replace them. It could only get away with being more expensive if it brought much more to the table than Wi-Fi does in terms of advantages, and Wi-Fi would still need to exist as an alternative.
- Ease of use – Now, this is a feature where 5G can do well. Cellular internet needs no wires or physical phone lines to work. Ever used your phone as a wireless hotspot’? It’s refreshingly straightforward. Now that the service can be quicker, it makes an excellent alternative to standard phoneline Wi-Fi. It could (and does in some 4G cases) work a similar way. Consumers could buy a 5G device that they pay for monthly, which has a certain radius and built-in passwords so only approved users can access it. It could also be portable, and users could bring it with them wherever they go. Who knows, perhaps our smartphones could double up like this in time. But of course, the next two features would need to work in 5G’s favor before they could.
- Stability of connection – This may be the Achilles heel of cellular data. That is, you cannot find a signal. No cellular signal means no 4G; any smartphone user knows this. No matter where we go in the world, we have all struggled to get a signal at times. Fiber-optic broadband doesn’t suffer from this same curse. Its network is established in such a way in which it’s immune to such issues. Of course, it has issues all of its own, but none of us hang our modems out the window in an attempt to get one bar. Cellular connections are seldom as secure as wired connections. If 5G or 6G is to replace wired broadband, then this problem would need to be eliminated. We expect that one day it will be, but it’s unlikely to be anytime soon. 5G is imminent, yet losing our signal on occasion is seemingly just as common as it ever was.
- Advantages – If 5G replaces the Wi-Fi we’re used to, to not only offer new and exciting advantages but retain all the ones we currently enjoy. For example, no data allowances. Why would we trade our current home broadband connection, which has no download or data limit, for one that did? As far as we’re concerned, this is just more evidence to suggest that the concept of a data allowance is outdated, and its days are numbered. 5G will have some unseen advantages that we’ve not considered yet or invented.
Final Thoughts On 5G
It’s an exciting time, that’s to be sure. The speed of 5G alone is amazing. We won’t be surprised if we look back at a time before 5G and laugh, quite like how we do whenever somebody mentions dial-up internet. The jump between network infrastructure is always a pronounced step, but its advantages tend to creep up on us slowly. After all, many of us are under contract with 4G handsets until much later. And some of us may be much more skeptical than others about what 5G has brought.
The gap between 4G and 5G cannot be compared to previous gaps, such as 3G to 4G. Technology has moved on and advanced in ways we may not have realized yet. But it is all new and exciting, and we have discovered something extraordinary.