“If 3G ‘was like a junior high school rock band,’ 4G was a louder high school rock band and 5G is a full orchestra,” says AT&T chief technology officer Andre Fuetsch, according to USA Today. This comment came after a bunch of 5G demonstrations at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona this past weekend, where the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ were also unveiled.
Right as we speak, T-Mobile is building its 5G network in places such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas. AT&T plans to offer mobile 5G to customers in a dozen cities by the end of this year (but without 5G phones?), and Verizon is launching 5G in five cities this year. At least Verizon admits that its 5G service will be available for residential broadband rather than mobile devices.
So what about the rest of us? There isn’t any smartphone maker who is making a 5G phone for release this year. It’s quite logical that 5G smartphones will start to arrive in 2019, but even that’s not completely guaranteed. And will 5G really be that much faster than 4G for the average consumer?
Well, nobody can agree on how fast 5G networks will be. Some say that the new networks will average 10 to 20 Gbps, possibly making it three to five times as fast as 4G networks, depending on which one you use. When using Verizon’s 4G network, I find myself getting an average of 5 Gbps in Southern California. T-Mobile’s 4G network, when not throttled, usually offers around 3 Gbps. Let’s put it this way — I never find myself complaining the network is too slow.
Putting the numbers aside, a 5G network would enable you to watch a 4K (or even an 8K) broadcast without any lag. It would allow you to easily access VR apps and 360 degree videos that don’t look like you are encompassed in the middle of a VHS video. It could be revolutionary if VR catches on. Instead of FaceTiming your friend in Hawaii, you can VRTime that friend and transfer (virtually, of course) to their environment. There really is a lot of potential.
The cost to run the 5G networks will be very high, and it will certainly affect your cellular bill. Nobody seems to know exactly how much it will hurt your wallet. But it’s possible that unlimited 5G will run you at least $100 a month. Of course, not everybody will need unlimited 5G, so most bills will rise about $30 to $50. But once people see what 5G can do, they’ll want unlimited data. And wireless carriers will take advantage of that. Now, all we can do is wait.