5G, is it good or is it a hoax?

For last 2-3 years I am constantly hearing about 5G. Like it is a messiah that come and save all of us from misery of 4G and LTE. Then about year ago, just before release of new iPhone I started to hear something like that: “There is no 5G in new iPhone, I will definitely will not buy it”. And I heard that a lot. And about 9 month ago I seen video on Linus YouTube channel about testing 5G. To be honest, “huge disappointment” is what I felt. There were so much talking and at the end we got this? Let me explain why I felt this way.

Reason number 1. There should be pretty much nothing between your phone and 5G station. Even your head affects signal in a bad way. Even leaves on tree are affecting signal. Pretty much any solid object between station and your phone and 5G will disappear. My understanding that it is not possible to use 5G in house at all.

Reason number 2. 5G drains battery a lot. By a lot I meant that your phone became really hot. My understanding that sometimes phone switches to LTE just because it is too hot to continue using 5G. So, what the point of downloading something faster, if it will cost you 20% of your battery? Just released iPhone 12 has setting to disable 5G and most people are recommending disabling 5G to save battery life. I would personally trade LTE speed for battery life. For example, I gladly accept 10 times slower LTE speed, if my battery will live 2 times longer.

Reason number 3. Just because you phone need direct visibility of 5G station, there should be a lot of such stations. Pretty much every 300 meters. Imagine you have to cover whole city with Wi-Fi routers. It is a about the same amount of 5G stations required to cover city with 5G. And as result it a lot of money to buy and install them but also to maintain them. Space for stations should be rented. And a lot of people are against station nearby. They also need to protect station from vandals and that also cost money. As result, deploying so many stations in city will cost a lot and lot of money. And each of such station should be connected to really fast internet.

Reason number 4. My understanding that 5G stations require a lot of power. From my reading in internet, China will require to pay around $26 billion per year, just for electricity. It is about 10 times more that profit of telecom companies. As result most Chinese telecoms switches them off from 9pm to 7am.

Reason number 5. Do you really need such fast speed on your phone? What is scenario that requires such speed? Now, on most phones you can get 50-80 megabits using LTE. It covers pretty much all usage scenarios. Why do you need gigabit speed on your phone? For example, I got upgrade internet at my home from 200 megabits to gigabit. Do you think everything became magically better? My answer is no. Sure, big games are now downloading about 2-3 times faster and that is probably is only improvements I only see. And perhaps faster upload speeds when I need to do backups. But again, I will happily downgrade to previous speed if I will have 50% discount.

Reason number 6. Right now, most telecom companies offer “unlimited” internet on your phones. But it is not truly unlimited. After 30-40 gigabytes your speed will be reduced. After you download even more it will be reduced again. And with 5G speeds, it is possible to download 30-40 gigabytes in matters of minutes, while previously you would need hours or even days to hit this quota. As result telecoms will have to raise this limit and as result, we will have to pay more.

As result, this technology will be quite expensive, and not really practical or even needed by customer. I read that most Chinese customers simply disabled 5G or did not buy phone with 5G in first place. So why there is some much buzz about it?

Well it is mostly vendors of 5G stations. They need to sell them, and they would like to sell a lot of them. Also, people used 2G->3G->4G and now they expected next G and it will be 5G. They do not know details and advertisement sells it as something good. I remember Pentium 4 times when Intel was selling megahertz. Company where I was working bought PCs with 1.4GHz Pentium 4, while it was slower than PC with Pentium 3 (800MHz), we had before. Ads trained people to buy CPU frequency. Now ads training to buy 5G. Simple and easy. And trust me, vendors of 5G stations invested a lot in advertisement.

Telecoms are also having their own reasons and they trying to deploy 5G to use it as advantage over competitors. “We have 5G, come to us, because our competitors do not”. Nobody want to be last. Even 5G will be only in few spots and only in few cities.

Do I think that 5G is garbage and completely useless? No. I think eventually we will have scenarios for such fast speeds, and I am pretty sure that amount of data will increase considerably. Sooner or later internet of things will kick in. As result we will have a lot of data, not only from phones, but from other devices as well. But there is absolutely no need to rush it or expecting any miracles with it. I think in like 10-15 years 5G or something similar will be eventually deployed and it is good thing. But for now, I think tech is way ahead of what people need.

As note, you should know that there are different kinds of 5G. Most current LTE stations are able to do “light 5G” and it will be displayed as 5G by your phone. It is barely better than LTE and, in many cases, LTE is actually faster. It is not real 5G, it is slight LTE frequency extension. Do not be fooled by that, it just some kind of trick to force you to believe that you did not waste money on new phone with 5G support. And I am sure it will not make 5G popular.