5G is a term that has been thrown around in the telecom industry too flippantly in the last year. Many people are wondering what 5G is and if they should get a 5G phone.
5G is an array of emerging technologies collectively used to attain speeds of 1 gigabit per second or higher. The average speed of 4G across carriers comes in around 31 Mbps and would make 5G speeds, at the very least, thirty times faster than the current average 4G speeds.
5G deployed by Verizon and T-mobile is live in a handful of cities across the US, and phones that will be able to utilize these technologies will be released in 2019. The question is whether or not buying a new 5G capable phone is worth it in 2019.
Whenever a new technology comes out, it will always be horribly more expensive than it will be in a few years. This is why the original iPhone did not have 3G capabilities, because at the time 3G chipsets would have been too expensive for the first model.
Currently, phones that will be released with 5G chipsets will be astronomically more expensive than the first iPhone ever could be with a 3G chipset. The new Samsung 10 with 5G capability could cost more than US$1500. Even with a budget phone that is capable of using 5G speeds, it will still cost at least US$100 more than its 4G counterpart, and that is on the low end. Flagship phones capable of using 5G will definitely cost far more than US$100 over their 4G counterparts.
5G capable phones won’t be the only extra cost. Telecom companies will not be providing 5G as part of their typical data plans but will have premium plans for 5G. 5G data plans will come at higher costs to the user. These plans have yet to emerge but will probably be far more expensive than current data plans and could potentially have far more stringent data caps than their 4G counterparts.
Without a 5G data plan, the extra cost of purchasing a 5G phone won’t be worth it. Many consumers finance their phones, and with the added cost of a financed 5G phone and a 5G data plan, monthly cell phone bills will be higher than they have been in the past five years. Will the extra cost to use 5G in 2019 be worth it?
Other than the high cost, the first generation of a 5G phone will also be more of a prototype than a real useful device. As of now, there is no data as to how the 5G network will affect the consumer usage habit. Most companies will just add a 5G chip into the phone and call it a 5G enabled phone.
There will be little optimization to efficiently make use of the 5G network. This is fine if you are an early adopter who loves to try out new technology. But for the mass consumer, it is best to wait through a few generations of 5G phone releases, after the technology matures.
When 4G LTE was first deployed, it only covered a few major cities, then all major cities, and eventually covered the majority of all networks’ coverage zones, especially rural areas. Still, it took time to go from covering major cities to covering rural areas.
With 5G, deployment will take longer to do this than it did with 3G and 4G LTE due to the peculiarities of the technology used for 5G. 5G utilizes a technology called millimeter waves which are capable of delivering extremely high speeds but have a hard time propagating across far distances and piercing solid surfaces like the walls of houses.
This will make the deployment of 5G extremely tricky and specialized to the point where multiple small cells that emit millimeter waves will have to be deployed strategically to cover an area where a single cell tower emitting 4G LTE currently covers. Scaling this technology will be difficult in situations such as traveling on the interstate or rural living. 5G will only be available in a select few places in 2019, and for most areas it won’t be available. Because of that, purchasing a 5G-capable phone probably won’t be worth the money.
Best to Wait
5G will eventually be commonplace and available across the US and other countries, but for now it is just another buzzword for a technology that has yet to see the true light of day. 5G won’t be widely available till at least 2020, and by then prices for 5G phones will have gone down, and hopefully, the same can be said for 5G data plans.
Those who purchase 5G phones and data plans in 2019 can expect to pay more than what they’re currently paying. For 2019 we recommend saving or spending your money on something worthwhile which does not include a 5G smartphone.
Image credit: 3D graphics image by Quince Creative