The United States is ranked somewhere around 62nd in terms of average 4G network speeds.
The ‘Race to 5G’ Is Just Mindless Marketing Bullshit
by Karl Bode, motherboard.vice.com, 4 May 4 2018
For several years now, wireless carriers have been busy telling anybody who’d listen that fifth-generation (5G) wireless will be a game-changing broadband revolution. Time and time again, their marketing departments have breathlessly insisted that everything from smart cities to next-gen medical care will only be possible through the miracle of 5G connections.
“Going from 4G to 5G is like going from black and white to color TV,” recently proclaimed Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure while trying to sell the company’s recently-proposed merger with T-Mobile. “It’s a seismic shift—one that only the combined company can unlock nationwide to fuel the next wave of mobile innovation.”
But while 5G will be a natural, evolutionary step forward for wireless, it’s far from the earth-rattling societal transformation we’re being promised.
“5G” is really just a collection of emerging antenna and core network technologies that will make wireless networks faster, more efficient, with lower latencies. But at the end of the day the “5G revolution” is really just a slightly-better version of the 4G LTE networks you’re already familiar with. Actual commercial deployment and handset availability isn’t expected until 2020 or later.
Buried beneath the hype rests a growing sense that wireless carriers are aggressively over-selling the technology’s potential.
Eric Xu, current Huawei Chairman, recently argued at an industry conference that consumers will ultimately “find no material difference between 5G & LTE." Meanwhile, industry analysts recently told the Financial Times that most of the technologies hyped as “only made possible by 5G” (smart cars and connected cities) don’t actually need 5G networks to thrive.
Buried beneath the 5G hype is the fact that Americans already pay some of the highest prices for mobile connectivity among all developed nations, thanks in large part to the monopoly companies like AT&T and Verizon enjoy over the fiber lines that feed cellular towers. So whatever “5G” winds up looking like, expect to continue paying through the nose for it.
Meanwhile, however silly the hype surrounding 5G has been, the emerging narrative that we’re engaged in some kind of “race to 5G” is arguably sillier.
The Trump FCC has been engaging in some facts-optional protectionism by banning Chinese network vendors from the U.S. market based on some pretty shaky (and often hypocritical) mass-spying allegations. Buried under this quest to “protect national security” rests the belief that deploying these networks is a “race,” and protectionism (read: keeping companies like Cisco from having to compete with overseas vendors) will somehow help us win it.