First introduced in 2009, 4G fueled the smartphone movement, which revolutionized the way we view technology. Instead of a device that could only take photos, make calls, and send messages, the phone became an essential part of life. It became our GPS and our source for internet and entertainment; but most importantly, it became a convenient one-stop-shop by combining various forms of technology. With 4G, we could access information wherever and whenever we wanted. Now, a new generation of wireless technology has people talking: 5G.
This generation offers faster speeds than 4G can, with peak download speeds of at least 20 gigabits per second in optimal conditions. Despite all the news about 5G, however, very few have actually experienced it yet. In this article, we answer the biggest questions about 5G and discuss why the revolution hasn’t truly begun.
Question: I would like to switch my phone from a 4G network to a 5G network. How would I go about doing this?
Answer: 5G is available in various locations across the globe, but it isn’t widely available. As of April 2019, South Korea is the first nation to launch a nationwide 5G mobile network. In October of this year, China will introduce its 5G service as well, though it already has 5G-capable phones, such as ZTE and Huawei, on the market. A few other places, such as Switzerland, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, possess coverage as well. In the United States, 5G is available with select carriers, such as AT&T, but these networks are unfortunately only accessible using hotspot devices, not mobile phones. In March of 2019, Lenovo/Motorola introduced the first “5G –capable phone,” but the phone itself isn’t genuinely 5G-capable, as it is a 4G-enabled device attached to a 5G hotspot accessory.
While there are fourteen 5G-enabled phones currently on the market or in the final stages of development, high costs and exclusive contracts make gaining access to a 5G-enabled mobile device challenging.
Question: Besides faster download speeds, what exactly do we gain from 5G? Do we really need it?
Answer: The first phase of 5G is indeed limited to faster mobile downloading. While this is attractive to the average consumer whose HD movies would be able to download in mere seconds rather than minutes, it doesn’t seem very advantageous to businesses and governmental sectors. The second phase of 5G, however, is where we benefit the most.
In several years, 5G will be further developed to provide low latency between user command and network response, meaning less to no time delay. This benefits mission critical technology, which relies on accurate and quick response time to complete tasks. For instance, remote surgeries are dangerous when latency is high because the surgeon is not viewing the patient in real-time. With 5G, however, there will be no lag time and, thus, a more accurate performance. Additionally, 5G will support the Internet of Things by offering enormous amounts of data. With 5G, the dream of creating wireless factories and smart cities around the globe will become a reality.
Question: We’ve heard all of the benefits of 5G, but are there any disadvantages?
Answer: While 5G is touted as a miracle, it does come with disadvantages. For instance, because 5G cannot travel well through tangible objects, such as buildings, it will require much more infrastructure than 4G did. 5G also requires a lot of software, and because of its need for low latency, numerous data centers will have to be constructed to support this generation. In addition, it will need a higher-band spectrum, whose signals cannot travel as far as those used for 4G and 3G.
In addition to these drawbacks, current 5G-enabled phones and hotspots will not be compatible with the second phase of 5G. Those who have already shoveled out large sums of money will have done so only for faster download speeds and will not be able to enjoy the future advantages of 5G with their current technology.
Question: If 5G mobile coverage isn’t truly accessible to the average consumer yet and the second phase of 5G will offer bigger advantages, then why are countries fixated on being the first to offer the first phase of 5G?
Answer: While 5G does not currently offer much to consumers, this doesn’t mean that countries should cease the development of 5G mobile networks. With current data usage, countries are running out of spectrum, which has fueled the race to adopt 5G networks. Besides this, offering 5G early in the game puts one company ahead of others. By being the first to offer 5G technologies on the global market, companies will stand to make a large profit in a few years and will exist as leaders in the 5G technology revolution.
Additionally, the induction of 5G will generate massive economic growth. It is predicted that by adopting 5G, the United States alone will gain three million new jobs and 500 billion dollars in economic growth. While we do not recommend buying current 5G technology, as it will be rendered useless when the second phase of 5G is introduced, we do suggest keeping an eye on current 5G trends. Here are a few to watch:
China Mobile Ltd.: will rapidly expand 5G by the end of this year
Verizon and AT&T: exist as the leaders in 5G mobile networks in the U.S.
Qualcomm and Intel: will enter contracts with telecom and consumer hardware companies.
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