Make Sense of 5g

The race to go full throttle 5G is on. All four major US carriers (KT Corp, LG U plus Corp, SK Telecom and Verizon Communications) now have some form of 5G wireless which rolled out in April in limited US cities. Compare that to South Korea where half of its population today could have access to 5G service after buying a network-enabled device. This race leaves global consumers very confused with the three major offerings of 5G that have come out: low-band, mid-band, and high-band. Each band performs differently but the most widespread current version, low-band, operates much like 4G.

We must be patient for 5G as an investment in our future. In previous mobile transitions (1G-analog cellular,2G-digital cellular,3G-improved speed,4G) the changes happened many years after the first announcement. For example, the first 4G phones in the US appeared in 2010, but not until 2012 did we see widespread applications applied to the consumer space, in Snapchat (2012), Uber (2013) and video call over LTE (2013).  Following that logic, we see bits of 5G now but real 5G applications won’t be widespread until 2021-2022.  In the interim we will continue to be confused as the various wireless carriers attempt to entice customers and adopters.

Future 5G will create a more efficient use of the spectrum, which translates to a cheaper alternative to wasteful Wi-Fi, which may eventually become obsolete. Most generational transitions (the G’s) are marked by changes in data transmission speeds and incompatible technologies (from each previous G). So, the payoff for our patience is that 5G will offer: bigger channels (to speed up data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices).

As various countries argue and scramble to offer superfast networks consumers try to make sense out of 5G news.  In the US the first truly all-carrier, all-band 5G phones have hit the US market in 2020. The Samsung Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra, work on low, middle, and high bands, on all three major US carriers.

Pam Kleczek

July 2020