After years of anticipation (and more than a little hype) 5G is finally starting to turn into a reality. But is it truly set to revolutionize the way we connect to the internet? Is this really the beginning of the end for 4G LTE, fiber, and broadband?
It’s true: the potential of 5G presents lots of exciting opportunities for new technologies and capabilities. It’s also true that 5G is still in its infancy, has lots of big challenges to overcome, and will remain a work in progress for a long time.
Before you start envisioning a world where your clients trade in their fiber or broadband internet connections for 5G wireless subscriptions, here’s a look at some of the biggest myths surrounding the 5G rollout.
Myth: 5G will instantly offer higher speeds and lower latency
In controlled test environments, 5G promises astounding speeds (upwards of 10Gbps) and incredibly low latency (less than one millisecond). In practical terms, then means, an HD movie that takes a few minutes to download on a 4G connection will take about 10 seconds on a 5G connection.
Unfortunately, controlled test environments are very different than the real world. To achieve peak speeds, 5G requires a clear line of sight to the transmitter. In real-world environments, there’s currently no proof that 5G provides faster download and upload speeds than current services. To achieve peak performance in the real world, 5G needs to overcome a lot of additional infrastructure challenges (more on this below).
Myth: 5G will only use high-band spectrum
When most of us in the industry think of 5G, we think of high-band spectrum, sometimes referred to as mmWave. This is the spectrum where 5G can reach its full potential and deliver maximum speeds and the lowest latency. But high-band spectrum has significant drawbacks: It covers small areas and doesn’t penetrate buildings very well. Until providers and carriers build out their 5G networks and coverage, they’ll likely be “piggybacking” off the low- and medium-band spectrums to expand coverage.
Myth: 5G will be an instant revolution
It’s tempting to think 5G will follow a path similar to the emergence of 3G, which exploded with the arrival of the first smartphones. But for 5G to become widely adopted, massive amounts of investment are still needed. How much? To establish nationwide 5G coverage in the United States, one report estimated costs of more of than $300 billion.
On top of infrastructure costs, subscription plans at the consumer level are expected to be far more expensive than 4G LTE subscriptions, at least initially.
Myth: Smartphone manufacturers will lead the way for 5G innovation
Despite the fact 5G is a new wireless standard, it won’t be the smartphone industry that leads the way on innovation. Because of its ability to carry massive amounts of data without huge losses, 5G is opening up new capabilities in lots of emerging industries. For instance, with 5G, self-driving cars can sync with each other on the road, calculating road conditions and the actions of other cars in real-time to optimize safety and traffic flow.
Myth: 5G will quickly replace 4G LTE and minimize reliance on wired internet
If it’s not already apparent, 5G won’t be replacing 4G LTE or wired internet anytime soon. In fact, it could be decades before 4G disappears from the scene entirely. The cost of deployment for 5G is too high to see it quickly replace 4G in rural areas and sectors where low latency isn’t a huge need.
5G also isn’t set to eliminate the need for a wired internet connection in homes and businesses. 5G’s high-band spectrum has a notoriously poor ability to penetrate buildings, with coverage indoors dropping to just a few meters. If anything, 5G’s growth as a wireless standard will only make high-speed fiber connections and professionally designed internet installations more important than ever before.