I just read yet another overly hyped article about the miracles of 5G and how it is going to “transform” my life, and well, enough is enough. I just had to throw my two cents in on the whole 5G cell network nonsense because I’ve been hearing so much hype and, frankly, pure B.S. that I can’t stand it any more.
Look, all that stuff about gigabit speeds and a revolution in data communications because of 5G? Don’t believe any of it. Pretty much none of it is true, certainly all the hype you’re hearing from the cell phone companies isn’t.
5G does indeed deliver impressive speed. Theoretically it is faster than the internet connection to your house. (Well, hell, just about anything is faster than the connection I have at my house which often drops to speeds not much faster than what I could get back in the 1990s with a 28K modem. Just one of the “joys” of the government protected internet/cable tv monopolies we have.)
But that’s the key word, isn’t it? Theoretically. In the laboratory. In testing. Out in the real world 5G almost never reaches those speeds. In fact, it doesn’t even get close. Real world testing of newly installed 5G networks is showing that they are operating at speeds that are no better and often worse than the old 4G network. Seriously. Real world test results where the new 5G network is supposedly up and running are showing that in a lot of areas 5G is slower than the existing 4G/LTE network. And that doesn’t surprise me at all
I know a bit about radio, and that is exactly what the cell phone system is, radio. I know how propagation works, how radio waves at specific frequencies behave, how they can (or more importantly can’t) penetrate things like buildings, windows, etc., I know something about transmitters, receivers, antennas and all that guff. I know all that because I play with that stuff almost every day. And system just will not, can not, deliver the bandwidth and speeds these companies are claiming it will except under ideal circumstances which almost never exist out here in the real world.
Some of their transmitters at certain frequencies have a range of a whopping 150 yards. That’s it. Some of the frequencies being used are blocked by, well, everything, even glass. In difficult areas at some frequencies the companies would have to not only install equipment every few hundred feet, they’d have to install repeaters inside of large buildings to get coverage. Trying to fully implement this network to make it capable of what the cell companies claim it will do would cost massive amounts of money, trying to get permits, locate transmitters, etc would be a nightmare. So outside of dense (and high profit) urban areas, it just ain’t gonna happen.
Sure, it has a lot of potential, especially in rural areas. The system that runs down in the 600 mHz band has a lot of potential. It won’t get anywhere near gigabit speeds, but it does promise to deliver speed in the 30 -40 mbs range, which is a hell of a lot better than what most of us out here in rural areas are getting.
But all that other stuff about pushing up to gigabit speeds with ridiculously low latency times? Don’t believe it. The only places where you’ll see those kinds of speeds are in the most densely populated areas where the companies can maximize their profits.
And then there is going to be the cost. That seems to be one thing everyone is forgetting to mention. What is this going to cost us? You can be darn sure that the cell/data monopolies are going to try to suck every penny they can out of you. There are going to be data caps, speed throttling, and eye watering overage charges. They’re going to milk this for every penny they can get. And if you think they won’t, I should remind you that one of the big cell companies drastically throttled back the speeds and capabilities of some of California’s emergency services, including the fire departments a year or so ago. In the middle of a state wide fire emergency while whole towns were burning. Even though they paid extra for “unlimited” service. So yeah, they’re going to charge you through the nose for it.
5G has huge potential. The problem is that for most of us out in the real world we’re never going to see that potential fulfilled because of a lack of infrastructure, poor implementation by the carriers, and sheer greed on the part of the companies.
2 thoughts on “Is 5G a Scam? It’s Rant Time (Feel free to skip this one)”
Wow, a lot going one here.
As someone who is employed as an electronics technician for a Really Big Telecomm and works every day on the backend equipment that makes the cell network happen, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment.
For starters, 5G really does work as promised in “real wold” (i.e., not just in a lab) situations. It may surprise you to learn that it is being rolled out in the rural areas first. The reason why is simple. They bring it to small towns because the “bugs” have not been worked out yet. Lower populations= fewer annoyed customers when something goes wrong during the evaluation period. It is available in small pockets of large cities, but most of the deployments so far have been in the sticks. Much of the 5G network has already been built but has not gone live for customer traffic yet. Heck, I worked the night shift yesterday and did some 5G stuff. There are still bugs to be worked out but the promises are not empty ones.
Other than both being wireless, there isn’t much about amateur radio knowledge that translates to the cell network. In fact, only a small fraction of a cell connection is actually wireless. Specifically, the coordination network that seamlessly passes your call or data from one cell to another is an extremely complex system made almost entirely of fiber. From your phone to the tower is the only time the connection is wireless.
As for what all this will ultimately cost the customer, well, I’m not in the bookkeeping end of the business, but I can say that at least so far no one is charging more for 5G. In the last 25 years the cost of bandwidth has actually gone down. Remember the days when you would have to pay $70/month for a 1.5 megabit DSL line? Or $150/month for a 128K IDSN line? And for ISDN you also also had to buy some pricey hardware to make it all come together.
On the mobile side, the data caps and limits have been greatly loosened since the early days. While I don’t deny that the ISPs are nonetheless money-grubbing bastards, the cost-per-data-unit is a fraction of what it used to be. I remember paying $40/month for my first voice-only cellphone back in the early 90s (no data or text) and was only allowed a few hundred minutes of talk time per month…that was with my employee discount! And oh yeah, Caller ID and voice mail cost extra too. Today, calls and texts are almost always unlimited, voice mail and calling features are included. and roaming charges are virtually extinct.
Anyway, I see your point but it’s not as bad as you think. Just like ham radio equipment has gotten cheaper and better in the last two decades or so, with time the cellular network will get cheaper and better too.
If true I stand corrected. But all of the real world testing I’ve seen from reliable, independent sources still indicates that the current 5G installations are not any faster than 4G and often considerably slower. Extensive testing by Washington Post, Forbes, Ars Technica and other non-telephone company related agencies have shown repeatedly that the 5G network as it is being implemented is, at best, only slightly faster than 4G/LTE and often considerably slower, except in extremely limited areas. In theory 5G can be much faster than 4G, yes, but not the way it is being implemented by the phone companies in most areas. As for the majority of the network being hardwired, true, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest to the telephone user. The most important bit isn’t the fiber network, it’s the “last mile” so to speak, the radio connection to the phone. And at the frequencies being used in some cases, they are having serious problems. And they have yet to prove that the system can be scaled up for mass use. I have serious questions about them having enough bandwidth to be able to handle the amount of data they claim they can deal with at these speeds.
And I’d dispute the claim that data caps are being loosened. AT&T has been trying to get rid of its “unlimited” plans for some time, as has Verizon and I already have been seeing indications from T-Mobile that the unlimited data I had under my Sprint contract is probably going to be restricted or even go away entirely.
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