5G Excitement. Really?

by | Dec 9, 2020 | News, Tech

Reading time: 3 minutes

Oliver Wyman survey reveals 47% of UAE population is “excited” about 5G roll out.

Ok… really? Look up and notice the people around you. According to Oliver Wyman, consultants extraordinaire, half the people you see are excited about 5G. They surveyed 6,020 people in a country of 9 million, but their regression models and standard variation, combined with the obvious delta on the diversification of wind turbines with red colored tips, clearly declare the level of joy and bliss the people perceive the 5G to be “excited”. That is 3 levels over inured, and 6 below ecstatic. According to the Miller-Stewart scale of joyfulness applied to telecommunications, of course.

Come down to reality

Wireless communications are important. 4G/LTE has been an amazing improvement for humanity. Making calls, video conference, data transfer, messaging, streaming or mobile gaming are now completely common thanks to it. But 4G/LTE has a problem: Latency. And coverage. And limitation on number of devices. And… ok, it has some problems. 5G is the solution. It’s so much faster, has so much more capacity, handshakes are virtually instantaneous, latency… gone. It’s the panacea of communications…

Except… it has one small issue. Coverage. Range. Compatibility…

Data transmission is, in essence, a stream of bits. From server to device and back. You cannot send bits faster, you can only send more of them. And to do that you need electromagnetic waves, which carry power, and have a certain frequency. To basics, data transmission bandwidth is directly proportional to frequency. 4G operates at 2.5GHz. roughly… 5G operates at 20GHz, again roughly. Unfortunately, higher frequencies demand more power. And more power fries brains. So to protect brains, 5G at device level needs to be limited in the amount of radiation it can emit. And receive. Therefore, 4G and 5G at device have similar power. Therefore range is smaller. Therefore coverage is smaller. Therefore you need many more, and much closer 5G antennas.

Lots of blahblah. But what it comes down to is that IF your device is 5G compatible, AND you are within the coverage area, your transmission speed is going to be fantastic. But… for what exactly? You may be surprised to know that, often, website and app loading speed is more related to server response latencies rather than network bandwidth. That yes, once the server has your attention, a bigger bandwidth means faster loading. But what do you need it for?

Commercials say you may be able to download a 4k movie in 10 seconds. Lovely. Only, that’s about 4-10 gigabytes in 10 seconds… 400-1,000 megabytes per second… That’s near the speed limit to write data on a flash memory. But that’s to watch it on your mobile phone. What? Who needs that? You may need that for data transmission between app servers. But these don’t go on 5G networks. They use those things called cables…

5G for you…

There is as much for you on 5G, at least at this stage, as there is in new brick-making technologies. 5G will become a necessity. It will. Imagine self-driving cars, drone delivery, traffic diversion signs, connected buses, ambulances with direct link to hospitals, health monitoring wearables, etc. being the new normal. For this scenario, 5G is a solution (not the only one…). Yes, 5G and the capacity it may provide will become necessary. In the future. Long time from now. For your emails? Your video streaming? Your online gaming? No. Just no. Someone needs to pay for the deployment, sure. That’s you. The amount of antennas required to provide the same coverage may be 5 times the number for 4G. And that’s expensive. They need your money. You just do not need 5G. Hard to imagine you would even want it. Well… unless someone decides to launch the service, throttle 4G as if it was an iPhone, and entice you to the better equal service you just had.