Wireless service providers carry on to battle over 5G dominance in the United States. The fifth-generation wireless technology vows to bring far higher speeds and advanced new uses for customers and businesses, from transportation to medical technology.
Though a few announcements about 5G availability in current weeks might make consumers consider that the 5G transformation is here, it will take at least a few more years — perhaps 2025 — before we’re all using the revolutionary technology.
T-Mobile, for instance, lately announced the launch of its countrywide 5G network. But there are restrictions: It’s a low-band network, which means it will provide speeds about twice as fast as 4G, but not the ten times speed upgrading that consumers assume from a 5G network. In the meantime, AT&T and Verizon have announced faster 5G networks that function at higher frequencies, but their exposure is limited to only select areas. The bottom line: 5G will be a steady evolution — not a revolution.
Even if consumers are fortunate enough to be in a city or neighborhood where they can get a superfast 5G network, they would be required to buy one of the few high-end smartphones that can take benefit of 5G networks; for example, the $1,300 Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone. And Apple is not planning to release a 5G-capable iPhone until late 2020. Add to this the fact that most Americans only change their phones every three or four years, leaving a major portion of the US population without a device to get a 5G network for quite a while.
But in the long period, 5G’s potential is huge and may in fact be under hyped. As higher-frequency 5G networks become extensively deployed and more 5G-capable devices and setup become available, 5G will grow into a truly revolutionary technology. It will provide much higher data speeds and lower latency, which means users will experience less interruption when watching a video or downloading a file, and self-driving cars will be able to manage all the information they need to make life-or-death decisions in a nanosecond.
In the meantime, mid-band wireless 5G networks will become effective alternates for fiber-based wired networks, allowing AT&T and Verizon to break the power of fixed broadband providers like Comcast for delivering high-speed home internet facilities.
But the true potential of 5G technology will be revealed with the making of entirely new applications that are simply not likely with existing 4G technology. In the instance of self-driving cars, they’ll be able to communicate with each other using vehicle-to-vehicle communications, high-speed, making transportation safer, in fact, and increasing the ability of highways. Cities will become more proficient and more reliable with smart streetlights that cut energy consumption, real-time traffic management that decreases traffic congestion and parking lots that can direct drivers to open parking spots. Health care providers will be able to monitor patients’ conditions in distantly, for and specialists will be able to carry robot-assisted surgery from thousands of miles away.
But for the time being, 5G in 2020 is mostly a publicity fest. Gradually, 5G networks in the next few years will increase coverage, as a wider range of inexpensive 5G smartphones come to the market. Only then will the consumer adoption of 5G start to take off, which could take till 2025 as service progressively expands. Back when 4G was the new leading-edge, there were still pockets of 3G even though carriers were endorsing “nationwide” coverage.