When it comes to 5G, there’s the anticipation of a tipping point – but the tipping point is somewhere off on the horizon.
It would be understandable to think that the latest iteration of wireless technology — promising blazing fast data speeds — is ready to go, given the latest announcements from Apple (for its first 5G iPhones) and Verizon’s announcement that it was bringing more 5G availability to a range of cities and that it had teamed up with Microsoft to accelerate 5G deployments through private networks for businesses. Separately, T-Mobile has said that will go nearly nationwide on its own 5G network by the end of next year, as reported in Fortune.
But then again … the wait, as they might say, is on. Thus far, what’s on offer is the same as what has been on offer.
A study by Opensignal found that the U.S. ranked among the lowest of all nations surveyed as a function of how much faster download speeds have been for 5G over the current standard 4G. Turns out that although overall, 5G is supposed to be typically five to six times faster than 4G, the U.S. speeds were 1.8 times faster, just slightly ahead of the Netherlands at 1.6 times, and well behind Thailand at 15.7 times.
Where the tech is available, as noted by the Dallas Morning News, Verizon has a much quicker 5G network (due to using millimeter wave technology) but that tech is live in 36 cities.
In the meantime, there’s a clear front runner in the race toward 5G. The GSM Association, which represents the mobile industry, said in a report titled “The Mobile Economy: China” that “2019 was a pivotal year for the Chinese mobile industry. The country was one of the first globally to launch 5G services. With operators and enterprises forging ahead in the development of 5G services, and growing consumer excitement, China has cemented its position as a global leader in 5G.” The association estimated that China will account for 70 percent of global 5G connections in 2020, and 5G adoption will grow to just under 50 percent by 2025.
Part of the move toward getting 5G in place statewide means using more spectrum, which is essentially what the phones use when they transmit signals. As noted by Politico, “ a high-profile government auction of so-called C-band airwaves” starts next month and will help carriers speed up 5G rollouts and performance. President-elect Joe Biden has stated on his site that there will be a $300 billion investment over four years in R&D, with efforts aimed in part at 5G.
Recent reports in this space have found that although the iPhone and other offerings might get an enthusiastic reception, observers note a gulf between expectation and reality. Boris Metodiev, associate director of research firm Strategy Analytics, told Reuters that using 5G-enabled devices (Apple included) is akin to “having a Ferrari … but using it in your local village and you can’t drive to up to 200 miles per hour, simply because the roads cannot maintain those speeds.”
With speed come concerns about securing data. Jonathan Knudsen, senior security strategist at Synopsys, said in an interview with PYMNTS that a secure, standardized security framework can help various ecosystems move toward 5G with confidence. The key challenge is to make sure that the systems and devices are better than reasonably secure before they go on the 5G network in the first place.