Is A 5G Phone Worth It?
With 2019 rolling in we are going to start to see a lot of advertisements for 5G enabled smartphones and the benefits of the 5G enabled network. The reality is, a properly rolled out 5G network is great. You get super fast internet speeds, lower latency, you get the ability to connect a lot more devices to that super fast internet, but to get to that stage where it's the internet of things and where everything is connected and talking to each other on the super fast network, you need to overcome a very large obstacle. This obstacle casts some shade on this whole 5G smartphone infrastructure. It's the difference in the 5G wavelength.
5G signals act very differently than the lower frequency 4G wavelengths. 5G signals have a significantly shorter range and a weaker penetration than a 4G signal. Things like walls affect the way that 5G signals get through, but even things like a tree, another object, or even a human being between you and a 5G cell tower will affect the signal strength. Even the way you hold your phone can affect it because your hand can attenuate the signal from reaching your internal antennas. Even things like weather effects like rain, fog, and snow can reduce the signal strength of 5G frequencies.
The workaround and solution to this problem are kind of primitive. Basically, you have to flood a city that intends on being 5G enabled with a ton of cell towers. Without exaggerating, you want a cell tower basically on every single street lamp. That's a ton of cell towers, and in an office building, they need to be everywhere because you want a clear line of sight to your phone and a signal tower to be able to use a 5G network properly.
In terms of the network side, the problem with that it's very difficult and very slow to build up an infrastructure like that. There are a ton of permits and requirements in order to get something like that done on a city level. Not to mention that there is substantial pushback from communities. Not everyone wants to be surrounded cell towers due to their potential issues to health risks. There are not a lot of long-term studies on EMF radiation from these new towers.
For early adopters, it'll be a long time before 5G enabled phones can actually take advantage of real 5G capabilities. That's just the nature of this rollout. It's just not an easy rollout and that's just the nature of things. When it comes to phone hardware, there are a whole slew of other obstacles.
5G enabled phones are going to be crazy expensive at launch. So, Pete Lau, the CEO of OnePlus is saying that 5G enabled phones are going to cost $200-$300 more than their 4G devices. So, if you have a reasonably priced $500-$600 phones, now you're looking at $700-$800 with the added 5g capabilities. Essentially, that makes a reasonably priced phone and puts it in a crazy price-point range. You will need to sell your phone and add $200-$300 to buy a new one. That new Snapdragon 855 needs a separate 5G modem and multiple antenna modules to make this thing work on the 5G network.
The reason why you need so many antenna modules is that of the aforementioned reasons. If your hand covers any of the antennas it doesn't work and you need to have more antennas that intelligently switch among one another to keep a seamless connection. It's difficult to do, it's expensive to do, and it's going to cost the consumer a lot.
There's also an issue of shorter battery life because you're transmitting and receiving 5G signals and it's going to invariably use more power than the regular 4G version. Of course you're going to get better speed on the new network, but the entire premise of 5G promises somewhere between 10-20 times the speed of 4G, which in theory sounds great and maybe in the future we will get there, but when it first rolls out, we're going to get a Snapdragon 855 modem that will only be able to hit 2.5 times more than the 4G can get. So, it's faster, but it's not going to be 10-20 times faster for a few more years.
We aren't here to dump on 5G. In fact, quite the opposite, but we think it's fair to allow the early adopters to understand the reality of what they will be getting all the while under the huge advertising campaigning of the early 5g capability. In our current of which we live, the 5G network is going to be rolled out very slowly. So, if you're going to spend that type of money, it's going to be a huge premium for a not-so-great experience. We have the groundwork for it and it will get there, but it's probably best if you wait a while before taking that plunge down the 5g rabbit hole.