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What is 5G and why is it a bit bad now?

After the introduction by Gary Shapiro, chairman of the Consumer Technology Association, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg took the stage. He was wearing a plain black T-shirt with obvious red plaid, and began to give a keynote speech. Vestberg enthusiastically talked about the current topic of 5G. The keynote speech covered the eight “currencies” of 5G, featuring a professional athlete, and focused on how 5G will change the drone industry.

That is CES2019. It is also CES2021. Verizon is not alone in cheering on the 5G hype machine. AT&T and T-Mobile have been talking about their 5G network for years. Now is the screening time. With major flagship phones and more inexpensive devices, this year, key phone buyers will eventually learn all these topics for themselves.

This is bad news: if they have been listening to the hype, they will be disappointed. We have been promised to carry out the fourth industrial revolution, which includes fantasy things such as remote control surgery and driverless cars.Instead, we now have a wide range of 5G with almost the same speed (or even lower) as 4G, while the ultra-fast mmWave 5G some section some Major cities with very limited coverage. So where is our promised 5G future? The truth is that it is coming, but it will be slower and less obvious to achieve than we are believed by people.

Spectrum wars

To understand the current complex 5G situation in the United States, you first need to know the low, medium and high frequency bands that operators can use. The low frequency band is slower but covers a wide range. The high frequency band (commonly called mmWave) is very fast, but the range is extremely limited. The mid-band is located in the best position between the two, with good range and better speed than LTE.

If you are building a 5G network from scratch, you may need a bunch of mid-band spectrum, right? The problem is that spectrum is a limited resource. Sascha Segan, Chief Mobile Analyst magnet A wealth of 5G knowledge summarizes some of the spectrum issues.

He said: “Our government did not provide the right channels for operators.”

; “Verizon and AT&T basically only used the remaining odd numbers and ends of the 4G spectrum…put 5G encoding on these remaining bits and waves, So that they can pop up the 5G icon on the screen. And the performance is meaningless.”

The technology used by Verizon and AT&T to obtain nationwide 5G coverage is called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), which allows 4G and 5G to coexist on the same spectrum. This can help operators transition from one technology to another, but this requires a certain price. Michael Thelander, president and founder of Signals Research Group, a wireless industry research company, sums it up: “It’s like owning a super sports car and you are stuck on the Santa Monica highway. You can’t experience all the features.”

On the other hand, since T-Mobile acquired Sprint and its mid-band spectrum, it does not need to rely on spectrum sharing as the other two spectrum sharing. So far, this has given it an advantage in 5G products.

However, by early 2022, we are likely to see the rise of Verizon and AT&T. By the end of 2020, a large amount of mid-band spectrum called C-band will be auctioned. Although we do not know which company has won which spectrum block, we know that these two carriers are particularly expensive. The highest bid is more than $80 billion.

What happened next?

The network may not yet trigger on all cylinders, but more and more mobile devices are ready for them. In fact, by the end of this year, finding a non-5G phone may be more difficult than a phone that supports the technology. Apple and Samsung’s flagship phones not only support 5G in their product lines, but because of the adoption of new low-end processors that support 5G (such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 480), it is also entering more mid-range and budget devices.

This year, more people will buy 5G phones than ever before-maybe not because they really want 5G, but because the phones they will buy support it anyway. The good news is that there is really no disadvantage to buying a 5G phone now if you want to upgrade. In the past few years, the “5G tax” that charged higher prices for 5G phones seems to be disappearing, and we haven’t noticed any other shortcomings, such as excessive battery consumption in tests.

iPhone 12.

The iPhone 12 series provides 5G connectivity throughout the entire product line.
Vjeran Pavic / The Verge Photography

So, how has the reaction to someone buying an iPhone 12 been so far? This is not for 5G, but because it is the new iPhone? “They feel frustrated and angry,” Sagan said. “For Verizon and AT&T, their 5G nationwide is generally slower than 4G because of what I call a technical problem. Therefore, people are getting these iPhones and they find that their performance is often worse than before 5G.” He The “technical problems” referred to include the DSS in the Verizon case and the limitations of the narrow 5MHz band that AT&T often uses in its 5G.

That’s not great. However, several factors will make a difference next year. First of all, the C-band spectrum will be online around the end of this year. If you are one of the lost owners of the iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21, there is good news: your phone has been approved to use the C-band, so if you are using Verizon or AT&T, you should see speed increases.

However, not all 5G mobile phones support C-band. Those unwanted software will require software updates to be used, and there is no guarantee that the manufacturer of your phone will provide software updates. Especially the cheap 5G models, even with hardware support, may not see C-band updates. Mobile phone manufacturers need to apply for approval from the Federal Communications Commission to enable it, and for phones with a shorter lifespan, the cost of this step may not be affected.

Another factor is that much earlier than the C-band appeared: large gatherings. At that time, Segan thought that Verizon’s Ultra Wideband could indeed shine. “When we are all vaccinated, I think people will be desperate…because we will miss all these dense, crowded, public experiences for a year and a half. So Verizon should work on apps and experiences now, It’s like what they did in the Super Bowl, or what they talked about in Disney World, and this can only be done on ultra-wideband.”

Again, it depends on whether your 5G phone supports the correct species 5G-Not every 5G mobile phone supports mmWave. Both the aforementioned iPhone and Samsung flagship stores support it, and other supported Verizon models are also called “UW”.

Where is our jetpack?

What about the content of the CES keynote, such as remote surgery and self-driving cars? This is also in progress, but it will take longer. Thelander explained: “The primary focus of 5G is actually a feature called “enhanced mobile broadband”, which simply provides consumers with faster data speeds through smartphones. Such as factory automation and the functions behind it. Things like that were really developed later, so from a standardization point of view, it is lagging.”

TCL 10 5G Ultra Wide Band

The primary focus of 5G is to increase the speed of consumer mobile data.
Photography: Cameron Faulkner/Edge

Solving technical problems is only half the equation. Thelander said: “Once a specific function or feature is defined in the standard, now the supplier must go out and build that function, then it must be tested, and then it must be adopted by the industry.” “The technology may exist, the standard may exist, It may work, but it must be implemented and promoted. And, you must provide a business case for it. How do you make money from it? All these types of things… take time.”

Although in the past year, the network has been waving the slogan “5G mission completed” in TV advertisements, but 5G is still in progress. It will get better, but how often this will happen to you depends on many factors: which phone you have, which frequency bands it supports, which network you are on, where and what you are doing. It seems clear now that there has never really been a “5G race”-just technological progress as usual, which is usually slow, chaotic and unbalanced. It is a bit difficult to sell in a keynote speech or commercial advertisement.

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