What’s the latest buzzword on the interwebs? iPhone 11? Nope. The Trump Regime? Nah. Russia? Uh uh. AirPods? Maybe. To hear telecoms tell the tale, the latest and trendiest piece of news is 5G.
T-Mobile is pushing 5G internet access loud and clear. Do you know anyone with a 5G iPhone? About 25-percent of all iPhone customers in the U.S. think their iPhone is 5G already.
It. Is. Not.*
In fact, I don’t know anybody anywhere with a 5G smartphone, though Samsung already has one on the market. Why? Samsung. How fast is 5G?
Generally speaking, once 5G rolls out around the world it will be screaming faster than 4G LTE. Or, rather, it is supposed to be faster. Much of the so-called increase in speed depends on where you and your smartphone or iPhone are standing relative to the signal.
Sounds familiar, right?
5G needs many, many, many more antennas than 4G LTE so the full rollout may not happen for many years.
For many of us how fast 5G really is won’t really matter because the public internet isn’t as fast as 4G LTE is already. That’s right. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so the internet is only as fast as its weakest link.
The internet is made up of routers, networks, servers, and users. When a router is congested because there are too many users, the speed slows down. Ditto for networks, servers, and the number of users connecting to any component at any one time.
A 1-gigabit 5G connection is fast but it is only one link in the chain and there are a growing number of links.
Simply put, 5G will not be as fast as predicted, and won’t reach those speeds in average everyday use for years; if ever. Tests? Yes. Reality? No.
Hype, meet reality.
5G low-band offers similar capacity to advanced 4G. T-Mobile and AT&T are launching the first week of December. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray warns that speeds on his 600 MHz 5G may be as low as 25 Mbit/s down. AT&T, using 850 MHz, will also usually deliver less than 100 Mbit/s in 2019. The performance will improve, but cannot be much higher than good 4G in the same spectrum.
My current 4G LTE averages about 34-Mbps at 24ms down, and almost 20-Mbps up. That’s with Ookla tests. Real-world connections are notably slower than that.
So, don’t expect much from 5G for a few years.
*How do I know this? My father has been an engineer in the telecom industry for 40 years, so I grew up with all the latest buzzwords and explanations.