January 22, 2020

5G: Pros and Cons

When 4G LTE first emerged, people were blown away by the speed and capabilities of such an advanced network. With 4G, LTE came more rich content, from video streaming to live gaming. Today, as we get ready to head into 2020, 5G is the next big thing on everyone's mind.

With a peak data rate of 20 Gbps, using Enhanced Mobile Broadband, 5G will increase the bit rate, which increases speed and can also lower delays in content delivery to mobile devices. This will be especially helpful for applications that are bandwidth-intensive like virtual reality, augmented reality and Over the Top Media Services.

5G is a great opportunity for developers to deploy applications that take advantage of fast, high-speed lower latency networks. But like any data network, people want to know what the advantages and disadvantages are going to be of this new technology.

So let's break down some of the pros and cons of 5G.

5G Pros

5G Pros include the following:

  • Killer speeds: If you are close enough to one of the 5G towers with your 5G phone, you will be able to download entire episodes of HD programs in a manner of seconds. Buffering when viewing a video will be a thing of the past.
  • Less tower congestion: With current 4G LTE technology, when thousands of people descend on a small area, towers tend to get congested and reach capacity. On 5G, this will no longer be an issue. This means that people won't feel like they are competing against each other for the tower using their cell phone on internet-based activities like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, sending/receiving email, web browsing, searching maps and directions, and reading news with all of the other users at crowded venues like sporting events, concerts and festivals. With more bandwidth available, people will also be able to use this bandwidth to do more with their devices, making them more versatile than ever before.
  • New technology options: As network speeds have increased, more and more tasks are being transitioned from the world of computers to the world of smart devices. With the increasing network speeds, this could open new doors for smart device technology that may not have been available. We're talking AI, VR and much more.

5G Cons

The cons include the following: 

  • Broadcast distance/building penetration: One catch is that these frequency waves can only travel a short distance. Just like 5 GHz, Wi-Fi doesn't travel as far as 2.4 GHz WI-Fi, and 5G cellular will not travel as far from the tower as 4G. Also, the millimeter 5G waves will only travel well in the line of sight (a straight line with the ability to see the tower). Meaning trees, buildings, walls or other obstacles will block, disrupt or absorb the high-frequency signal. Some have predicted that even rain could potentially be a problem for 5G connections.
  • Battery drain/heat: Phones running on 5G will experience a huge battery drain. Better battery technology will be needed if the object is to run your phone a full day on a single charge running a 5G connection. Users are also reporting that phones are almost hot to the touch while running 5G.
  • Upload speeds: With the current technology, users see download speeds as high as 1.9 Gbps; however, rarely are the upload speeds seen over 100 Mbps. Granted, this is far superior to 4G LTE. However, the current upload speeds seen by actual 5G users are not as groundbreaking as the download speeds. Also, the ping speeds seen by users on 5G phones are currently not in the anticipated low latency of 1ms or less; the actual speeds are being seen in the 15 ms range.
  • Lack of widespread coverage: Currently, 5G coverage is limited to narrowly defined areas in specific cities. As a rule, the carriers will be expanding their network in areas with the greatest population. If you live or work in certain areas of big cities, you will most likely be the first to benefit from the 5G technology. For everyone else, especially in remote areas, it will be some time before it arrives. Carriers are more likely to spend their network upgrade dollars where the greatest number of their users reside or work.

With any new technology, it's important to discuss what the pros and cons are so that you can have a better understanding of how it will impact your business. There's a lot of buzz around 5G, and it can be easy to get confused by what information is correct and what's not. We won't truly know what 5G can do until it's fully implemented, but what we do know is what it's built to do.

As carriers continue to retire their 3G spectrum to repurpose it for 5G, it can be confusing and frustrating as an operator who needs to upgrade their equipment to keep pace. Additionally, MWCA predicts that only 49% of connected devices will be 5G in 2025, with 4G still holding 45%.

@ By Rob Ramage